Snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus, is native to parts of China and the US. Its name comes from the pinchable blossoms that open and close like the mouths of friendly dragons.
This self-sowing annual is often referred to as a perennial, because it tolerates some frost, and its seeds come up yearly in temperate zones.
It is a member of the Plantaginaceae, or plantain, family, a sub-group of the expansive Scrophulariaceae, or figwort, family of plants that includes several others with which you may familiar.
One is toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), aka butter and eggs, a common sight along country roads. It, too, has a hinged-style mouth.
Other members of this large plant group have stationary mouths, like summer snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia), beardtongue (Penstemon), wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri), and foxglove (Digitalis).
Classic characteristics of figworts are their squarish stems, and spikes of open-lipped blossoms.
Here’s what’s ahead in this quick growing guide:
Cultivation in the Garden
Snapdragon has much to offer in the garden. It is available in dwarf varieties with heights up to one foot, as well as tall types that top out at three feet. It is a species that grows well in zones 7 to 10.
When seedlings are about four inches tall, pinch them back to encourage fullness and multiple flower stems.
As stems rise, they produce cones of buds that open from the bottom, up. As the lowest wither, pinch them off to encourage more to open.
About mid-summer, cut the dead flower stalks from your tall plants to a height of about 4 to 6 inches, and add a little compost. By autumn, they’ll bloom again. Let the seeds fall and see what comes up next year.
Snapdragon hybrids are available in an array of bright, velvety colors as seeds or nursery plants. Those that say “rust-resistant” are your best bets, as they have been bred to stand up to one of the biggest threats to this species, Puccinia antirrhini, a fungus that causes rust-spotted leaves.
Choose single- or double-petal and bi- or tri-colored varieties for a sensation in the garden, and as cut flowers for vase arrangements.
And now, let’s recap! This quick guide will be here whenever you need it.
- Annual flower
- Cultivar variations include single or double bi- or tri-color blossoms
- Deadhead to prolong blooming
- Dwarf and tall varieties
- Full sun
- Mid-summer cutback for late season re-bloom
- Pinch seedlings back to encourage multiple flower stem formation
- Rust-resistant hybrids are best
- Variety of colors including orange, pink, purple, white, and yellow
- Well-drained, loose, organically-rich soil
- Zones 7 to 10
Where to Buy
The ‘Rocket’ series of hybrid annual snapdragon seeds is available from True Leaf Market. Select bronze, cherry, golden, lemon, pink, red, rose, or a mixed batch.
A. Majus Pumilum ‘Magic Carpet’ Seeds, available from Eden Brothers
For another beautiful selection, try the ‘Magic Carpet’ mix, in shades of red, pink, apricot, and yellow. This dwarf variety will reach about 8 inches in height.
A. Majus Maximum ‘Brighton Rock’ Seeds, available from Eden Brothers
‘Brighton Rock’ is an exciting heirloom variety that pollinators love. Enjoy a blend of pastel and bi-colored blooms, in shades of red and orange.
A. Majus Maximum ‘Snowflake’ Seeds, available from Eden Brothers
Or, if you’re a fan of white flowers, ‘Snowflake’ is the cultivar for you, with snowy white blossoms on stems that will reach about 36 inches in height, so it’s perfect for cutting.
Bold and Structural
For a great addition to your cutting garden, look no further than today’s hybrids or heirloom varieties of an old-time favorite, the humble snapdragon.
You can’t beat the vivid hues they’ll contribute to beds and borders. As a cut flower, it draws the eye to its bright, linear form. And best of all, since it blooms from the bottom up, buds keep opening after it’s cut and placed in a vase.
How about adding a few dwarf varieties for visual interest and texture at the front of your beds, and tall ones to anchor the back? Choose colors to suit an existing scheme or define a new one.
From great curb appeal to fabulous flower arrangements, snapdragon makes a bold, structural statement wherever it goes!
Feel free to share any cultivation questions you may have with us in the comments, and be sure to check out our full archive of flower growing tips.
Product photos via True Leaf Market and Eden Brothers. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!