How To Grow And Take Care Of Snapdragons

A flower whose name evokes an image of a mythical creature's fearsome jaw doesn't seem fit for a pretty garden, and yet, who wouldn't love a flower with the whimsical name "snapdragon?" The popular, versatile bloomer Antirrhinum majus is known as snapdragon, common snapdragon, or garden snapdragon, according to the North Carolina Extension office, which adds that the blossoms really do resemble the proboscis of a dragon. Gardening Know How shares a couple other names for the plant: lion's mouth and calf's snout!

Water-loving snapdragons show off bright, beautiful colors to enhance any garden design. It's easy to imagine them gracing Mediterranean gardens in Italy and Spain where experts, as noted by Plant Shed, think were their native lands. We normally think of southern Europe as having drought-tolerant vegetation, but today's snapdragons are having none of it. They appreciate consistently moist conditions and rich soil.

Snapdragons have spread far beyond their roots in the sunny Mediterranean. According to MiracleGro, they can be planted anywhere from USDA plant hardiness zone 3a to 11b. Most often, the colorful flora is planted every season as an annual, but predominantly in warmer climates with optimal conditions and the right varietal, snapdragons are perennial, says Gardening Know How.

How to use snapdragons in garden

Snapdragons are a favorite plant in English cottage gardens — and in gardens around the world that mimic the classic cottage garden style, described by The Middle-Sized Garden as colorful, informal, and abundant. With varieties in a myriad of hues, snapdragons are (forgive the pun) a snap to incorporate into any garden's color scheme.

Martha Stewart has had a lot of experience mapping out gardens, and she suggests incorporating snapdragons because their range of sizes allow them to provide depth by layering the multipurpose workhorse in different parts of a planting bed. Since snapdragons come in a variety of sizes and colors, they are ideal for intermingling with other plants.

A raised bed can be a great place for your snapdragons, per Beauty Harmony Life. Larger than even the most spacious flower pots, raised beds enable gardeners to control location, soil, and drainage, all of which make Antirrhinum majus happy little plants. No room for a raised bed? Snapdragons are perfectly content in pots throughout the garden or on your porch or deck, provided you have provided them with top-notch growing conditions.

How to grow snapdragons

The perky snapdragon isn't particularly fussy about where and how it likes to grow, but it has a few non-negotiable conditions. Gardener's World spells out those immutable needs beginning with plentiful sunlight and soil that drains easily, without remaining swampy. Careful attention to watering newly-planted snapdragons will pay off once they're established, says Gardening Know How, adding that regular sprinkles will keep your snapdragons looking good. When there isn't rain, the watering should be at a rate of about 1 inch per week.

In addition to the rich, nutrient-dense soil snapdragons crave, The Spruce recommends deadheading the flowers as blooms fade. Popping off the old blossoms help encourage new ones to show off their unique shape and enticing tints. They add that the preferred soil composition is neutral (neither too acidic nor too alkaline; test your soil to be sure it's where it needs to be). Fertilize the snapdragons when they begin to bloom. A standard fertilizer mix will work nicely.

Plant Care Today cautions that gardeners should give the flowers space, setting them in the ground with at least 6 inches of distance between seedlings. Prone to a host of pest infestations and fungal attacks, proper spacing is one way to ensure necessary ventilation for your snapdragons.

How to care for snapdragons

The care you need to devote to snapdragons is not tremendously time-consuming or onerous. With a good sunny location, steady watering, a little judiciously-applied fertilizer, and occasional deadheading, the snapdragons will reward you with fragrant blossoms that are most prevalent in the spring and fall, but which will often bloom throughout the summer if you give them a little love.

Sunshine is important for snapdragons, but as The Spruce points out, they like it best when the temperatures are cool to moderate (40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). If you have a hot, dry spell, be sure to give them extra water.

The feeding schedule endorsed by Gardener's World is a common one; feed weekly and nourish the plants with potash-based (high in potassium) fertilizer. If you're looking for robust plants with a bushy appearance, Garden Beast recommends cutting off the top of the flower spike before it blooms, allowing the plant to spread for a while before growing new flowers.

Snapdragon varieties

With nearly every shade except blue, snapdragons bring a rainbow of hues into your garden or flower pots. They have a wide range of heights, as well, adding to their versatility. Flower Glossary identifies approximately 40 varieties of Antirrhinum, all of which fall into two categories: summer snapdragons (which are Angelonia angustifolia, according to Gardening Channel, rather than Antirrhinum majus) and common snapdragons. Most summer species grow no larger than 18 inches while the common snapdragons vary from 9 inches to over 3 feet in height.

The Rocket variety of snapdragon is frequently seen in nurseries and garden centers. It is distinguished by it dependability and lofty height, states The Spruce. They also highlight the whimsically-named Tutti Frutti varietal, a shorter version that sports stripes on its blossoms.

Though they may be harder to find, Chantilly snapdragons will wow any visitor to your garden. These stunners grow in a trailing, vine-like pattern with long-lasting blooms, per the Gardening Channel. Another remarkable variety is the Black Prince, a unique plant with blooms that have striking very dark magenta flowers and leaves that turn purplish-bronze when colder weather arrives. Gardening Channel also raves about the Aroma Series, which confuse and delight the senses with whiffs of peach, lemon, and vanilla. Bright Butterfly snapdragons and several other varieties boast blossoms that are splayed open and don't resemble the snout of a dragon as much as they resemble azalea blooms.

Are snapdragons toxic?

There's good news for gardeners who adore their snapdragons: The pretty bloomers are non-toxic, according to Plant Care Today and Little Flower Hut. The tempting flowers that can open and close by pinching the colorful blooms won't cause problems for little curiosity-seekers who want to taste them as well as play with them.

The ASPCA specifically lists cats, dogs, and horses as being safe around Antirrhinum majus. Precocious pets who take a nibble might find your snapdragons bitter, but they won't fall ill from taking a bite or two. A note of caution, however: Those beautiful Black Prince snapdragons described above are poisonous, according to Rare Seeds. Even the seeds are toxic if eaten, says Dave's Garden. So, don't munch on the seeds of Black Prince as a snack, don't make tea out of the leaves, and don't drop the flowers into a cocktail as a garnish.

How to repot snapdragons

Occasionally, you may recognize the need to move an existing or a young snapdragon to a new location. Perhaps it's a seedling you cultivated or it has grown crowded in its existing locale. Whatever the reason, repotting your snapdragons is easy and causes the plant only nominal distress.

It's best to repot snapdragons in springtime, says The Garden Style. For best results, use a container that is bigger than the one from which the flowers are being uprooted. As with any repotting, you want to be sure the potting medium or soil provides the right environment for the plants. Garden Guides suggests incorporating some compost before plopping in your snapdragons. After all, they love fertile, well-drained soil, and compost can improve your soil so that the flowers adapt easily.

Just as when planting any snapdragons, place the newly-potted flora in a sunny location and give it regular drinks of water.

How to propagate snapdragons

Patient gardeners will purchase packets of snapdragon seeds, sowing them early indoors for transplanting in window boxes, pots, raised beds, or in the ground. Garden Beast notes that patience is needed as the seeds won't germinate for three months or so if they're planted directly in the ground.

You can harvest snapdragon seeds from the flowers you're growing, but the easier route is to snip open a seed packet purchased online or at your favorite retailer. When growing from seeds, Gardening Know How reminds gardeners to plant after all danger of frost is over. The website describes how to get new snapdragon plants from cuttings, which should be clipped a month and a half before the anticipated first frost in autumn. Some people opt to use a rooting hormone, which helps with propagation. They add one more method of acquiring new plants: dividing the roots of your favorite snapdragons. This method, done in late summer or fall, requires the gardener to gently pry apart the roots of an existing healthy plant, placing the divided plants (each with a bit of greenery to go with the roots) in pots to overwinter.

The most delightful way to get new snapdragon plants, however, has to be when "volunteers" show up. These plants often were self-sown from snapdragons you planted, but they also may have traveled on a gust of wind or with help from birds or other wildlife, according to Den Garden.

Snapdragon history, meaning, and folklore

Garden Guides confirms the Mediterranean origins of the snapdragon and offers several fun tidbits of information, beginning with the way ancient Greeks and Romans viewed the flower. In a world full of unknowns, people turned to the plant world for things that could keep them safe. Those ancient peoples believed snapdragons could shield them from the perils of witchcraft. There are worse things a person can wear when sporting a toga!

In Germany, attention was focused on protecting infants, so they put snapdragons to work safeguarding the little ones from harm that could befall the baby due to evil spirits. Additionally, Victorian England was known for attaching meaning to the type and color of any flower, so snapdragons were no different. Unlike in earlier times when Antirrhinum majus was a guardian against troubles, Victorians thought the snapdragons signified deception, yet contradicting that, they also thought they could reflect graciousness. Florgeous concurs; the flower could mean either dishonesty or gentility.

Perhaps the most uplifting way to think about the meaning behind snapdragons comes with giving yellow snapdragons. When you do, you're wishing the receiver good fortune and happiness. What could be better?