By Joan Cobb Washington County Master Gardener
I think every garden should have snapdragons (botanical name: Antirrhinum majus). They are easy to grow, colorful and make nice cut flowers. For grandparents, when you want to act like a child again for a “good” senior moment, and no one is looking, you can pick off the little snapdragon blossom and gently squeeze the sides of the top and bottom bloom and make that dragon roar! When little ones come to your garden you can choose your color of dragon and share in wildly imaginative adventures of dragon wars for a moment or two!
As a rule, snapdragons don’t favor hot conditions, however, my snapdragons do well in my garden. They are treated as annuals, but often self-sow. The seeds can be planted directly in flower beds as soon as the soil is workable, or you can buy nursery-grown hardened-off snapdragons for spring planting. They bloom from summer to fall, and if hot weather temporarily halts blooming, just prune the plants and they will bloom again in the fall. Their colors are white, pink, red, purple, orange, yellow and some hybrids are bi-colored. The flowers are spikes of ruffled, tubular blooms, they prefer moist, well-drained soil and are partial to full sun. There are 30 to 40 species of snapdragon, their height can be 6 inches to 4 feet, their spread 6 inches to 2 feet.
Well-liked cultivars include the low-growing Floral Showers series that reach 6 to 8 inches tall, and Bells, another dwarf variety that provides long-lasting blooms in solid and bi-colored shades. The “Madame Butterfly” variety grows to 36 inches and features rich, double blooms that resemble azaleas. The “Sonnet” and “Liberty” series are two prime, medium-height selections. Both make nice cut flowers for bouquets. The “Rocket” cultivar reaches 48 inches tall and can handle heat, but to avoid toppling over will need to be staked. Deadheading regularly before seedpods form will encourage any size snapdragon to keep on blooming.
Snapdragons are an old-time favorite – they can stir up happy childhood memories and also be the beginning of some happy memories.
As I said, every garden should have snapdragons in it!