Snapdragons Plant Them and Your
Garden Will Ignite With Color
Over the years I have enjoyed watching children squeeze this flower’s cheeks to see the dragon open wide, exposing its brightly colored throat, and then snap closed. This childish act has entertained generations of youngsters, but it’s not the only thing that makes this plant special.
When people ask me what to plant in the fall other than pansies, snapdragons quickly come to mind. They give you more height than groundhugging pansies and work well in the middle or back of borders. They also work great in containers. These cheery plants come in a wide array of colors, ranging from the brightest reds and yellows to the softest pastel pinks. Many of the flowers are bicolored. Some selections have blooms that look like open butterfly wings. An All-America Selections winner Madame Butterfly sports large, azalealike flowers.
Snapdragons are tender perennials but are typically grown as annuals. I wait until late October or early November, after the chrysanthemums stop blooming, to plant them at my home. In the Lower South snaps will bloom throughout the winter. But in the Middle South spring is the time they really put on a show. If you live in the Upper South, where the ground freezes solid, plant snaps in the spring and they’ll bloom until fall.
The last three autumns, I have planted Liberty snaps that grow 18 to 24 inches tall. Towering selections such as Rocket shoot up to 36 inches. These two are not only tall but also winter hardy. If you prefer dwarf snaps, try Little Darling-a mere 10 to 12 inches tall.
Lucinda Mays of Callaway Gardens likes the sturdystemmed Sonnet Series. She was also impressed with the way Black Prince held up during the cold last winter.
If you have full sun to partial shade with rich, welldrained soil, you’ll have no problem growing snaps. Pinch off the first buds to create a bushy plant. If you leave the first buds you will have early blooms and tall, spiky plants. Once your snaps begin to bloom out and turn brown, cut them back below the spent flowers. This will encourage new growth and a second bloom. Snaps can get top-heavy and topple over; try using small dogwood branches to prop them up. Taller selections such as Rocket may need to be staked to a single piece of bamboo.
If you think snaps look good in your garden, you’ll love them in the house. They make wonderful, long-lasting cut flowers. So this fall, in addition to planting pansies and bulbs, try snapdragons. They’re guaranteed to make you and the children happy.
Pages 94-95: Black Prince, Liberty, Madame Butterfly, and Little Darling, available from Thompson & Morgan (MO), 1-800-274-7333, no minimum order, catalog free; Rocket available from Park Seed (MO), 1-800-845-3369, no minimum order, catalog free; Madame Butterfly available from Ferry-Morse Seeds (MO), 1-800-283-3400, no minimum order, catalog free.