Snapdragons enjoy continued popularity in cottage gardens and flower meadows. In this article, you will learn how to plant, care for, and propagate these pleasant plants.
In addition to marigolds, dahlias and the common peony, the snapdragon (Antirrhinum) is also an integral part of the cottage garden. The large flower is a haven for bees and bumblebees, but the snapdragon is also suitable as a cut flower.
Snapdragon origin, properties, and flowering time
Snapdragon plants are a genus of the plantain family (Plantaginaceae). Their original home territory includes the western Mediterranean and western North America. There, the plant grows, among other places, in crevices and walls. The wild form of snapdragon is the common snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), also called garden snapdragon. In addition to the wild form, there are also some varieties that are planted as ornamentals in home gardens, often hybrid varieties. The snapdragon has a wide range of flower colours – there are white, yellow, pink, or red varieties, but also snapdragons in shades of purple and blue. Snapdragon flowers are solitary or in raceme flowerheads and have a palate-like bulging lip where nectar collects. Highly characteristic is a coloured spot on this lower lip. The snapdragon is a perennial summer flower that delights with its splendour of colours from June to September. Snapdragon leaves are arranged oppositely and have an ovate to elongated-elliptical shape. In its native regions snapdragons are perennial, but at our latitudes it is usually annual due to the colder winters.
Attention: There is a risk of confusion with Matthiola. They are also popular for planting in cottage gardens, but they belong to the mustard family (Brassicaceae).
The best snapdragon varieties for the garden
Most commercially available varieties of the snapdragon are annual F1 hybrids, for example, seeds that cannot be reproduced in single varieties. Offspring of these hybrids differ greatly from the mother plants, especially the flowering of the next generation is much more inconspicuous. Here we present the most beautiful wild forms.
Dwarf snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus var. pumilum): Dwarf snapdragon is a groundcover and has miniature blue-purple flowers. These appear from July to September.
Spanish snapdragon (Anthirrhinum hispanicum): Spanish snapdragon is native to Spain and has felted leaves. The flowers are white and pink.
Broad-leaved snapdragon (Antirrhinum latifolium): Broad-leaved snapdragon is hardy. It has creamy white to yellow flowers that appear from June to September.
How to grow snapdragons
At these latitudes, snapdragon is not hardy. But once planted, it often reseeds itself after flowering and therefore appears again in the coming years. The following information applies primarily to the common snapdragon (A. majus); other species may prefer different conditions.
Location and substrate
The location of the snapdragon needs to be sunny and warm; however, it also forms its flower in semi shaded locations. When choosing a substrate, the snapdragon is relatively undemanding, it copes with almost any garden soil. However, snapdragon grows particularly well in nutrient-rich soil which is always kept moist. The substrate will need to have a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Potting soil is suitable for cultivating snapdragons in pots or for improving the garden soil. Suitable for growing in containers is, for example, our Plantura Organic Flower Compost, which contains a long-term store of nutrients due to the compost it contains.
You can sow snapdragons or plant the snapdragon seedlings – both in the garden bed and in planters.
When sowing snapdragons, however, there are a few things that need to be considered. They can either be grown in advance from January or planted directly outdoors from April. Snapdragons are cold germinators, so they need a cold stimulus to germinate. Therefore, before sowing, the seeds will need to be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Then you can grow them in January/February in a cold frame or on the windowsill. The seeds are placed on the substrate at a planting distance of three centimetres, but not pressed in. Since snapdragons are light germinators, they must not be covered with soil – otherwise germination will not occur. The substrate will need to be kept moist. At temperatures of 18 °C the time has come, after 10 to 14 days the first shoots develop. For the plants to get used to the temperatures of the garden, they need to be placed in a location with temperatures of 15 °C for two to three weeks after germination.
From mid-April, you can plant your snapdragon seedlings or purchased snapdragons. A planting distance of 10 to 15 cm is suitable here. From June, the first flowers form. If the seeds are sown directly in the open ground in April, snapdragon will form its flowers later. If late frosts are expected, the snapdragons need to be covered with a fleece, but night frosts cannot harm them.
Snapdragon care: what to consider
For a particularly beautiful flowering, some care will need to be taken to support the snapdragon.
Watering and fertilising snapdragons
For a long flowering period, the snapdragon will need to be fertilised every 14 days with a liquid fertiliser. An organic liquid fertiliser such as our Plantura Liquid Tomato Food is particularly recommended. This provides all the essential nutrients for vigorous flowering throughout the summer season and healthy plant growth. It also contains beneficial microorganisms that support root growth and offers plenty of potassium, which will need to be available in large quantities for snapdragons.
Adding the right amount of water is also essential in caring for snapdragons. Watering is done as needed. The snapdragon does not tolerate waterlogging, but always keep the soil moist. Snapdragon protects itself from drought with its extensive root system.
Spring is the time to cut snapdragons. To encourage branching, the shoots are cut off at a height of 10 cm. In addition, flower growth can be encouraged by removing faded flowers. The individual flowers can either be plucked off or the whole stem can be removed at once.
Tip: After flowering, the seed pods of the snapdragon are formed. Therefore, do not remove the flowers from all plants, but keep some for propagation.
Are snapdragons hardy?
Whether snapdragons are hardy depends on winter temperatures. At our latitudes, they usually do not survive the winter. Common snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) withstand temperatures up to a maximum of -7 °C. However, if they are overwintered frost-free, snapdragons can form flowers perennially. To protect the snapdragon from the winter cold, for example, you can place fir branches over the soil.
Propagation of snapdragon is quite simple with seeds. About six weeks after flowering, the seed pods form on the stem, so faded flowers need not be removed. When immature, the seed pods are green, they are harvested when they are brown. You will need to accurately estimate the time, because if you harvest too late, the seed pods are already open, and all the seeds will have fallen out. To avoid this, the seed pods will need to be checked every three days. Once you have caught a good harvest time, the ripe seed pods are separated from the stem and the seeds are shaken out into a container. It is best to choose a sunny day, so the seeds do not need to be dried. Over the winter, they will need to be stored in a dark and dry place. They can be sown the following spring.
Tip: When dried, the seed pods can look like snapdragon skulls. Therefore, they are ideal for use as Halloween decorations.
Are snapdragons poisonous?
Snapdragons are not poisonous, they do not pose a danger to humans or animals.