Snapdragons and their colorful blooms make a lovely addition to a pollinator garden in a variety of different ways, from mixed border gardens to flower boxes to patio containers and raised beds. Their name comes from the individual flower heads, which resemble the shape of a dragon. If the flower heads are squeezed, it looks like a dragon snapping its mouth open and shut.
Pollinators will often wiggle between the “jaws” of the snapdragon to reach the pollen. In my garden, I frequently witness bumble bees diving head first into these flowers with only their fuzzy bee butts peeking out from between the petals. Snapdragons care is relatively simple, which makes for a low-maintenance addition to the flower garden.
Not only are snapdragons a great pollinator attractant, but they also do well as cut flowers. Because they can start producing flowers in both spring and fall, they hold a special place in the fall garden when most flowers are dying back for the year. Most varieties are short and have a bushy growth habit, but there are tall varieties as well. They’re gorgeous and come in an almost endless variety of colors!
In certain areas, they can be especially prone to pests, but for this reason, they can be used as a trap crop. Plant them at a distance from your vegetable garden and they tend to attract pests, drawing them away from your veggies. This will also provide predatory bugs, like ladybugs, with a food source and attract them to your garden as well.
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Quick Care Guide
Snapdragons care is surprisingly easy. Source: AndreyZharkikh
|Common Name||Snapdragons, dragon flowers, dog flowers, lion’s mouth|
|Scientific Name||Antirrhinum majus|
|Height & Spread||Dwarf varieties 6-10 inches tall and wide, but tall varieties can grow up to 2 feet tall and 16 inches wide|
|Light||Full sun to partial shade|
|Soil||Neutral, well-draining soil|
|Water||Drought tolerant, 1 inch of water per week during periods with no rainfall|
|Pests & Diseases||Aphids, root knot nematodes, spider mites, leaf miners, downy mildew, fungal leaf spots, powdery mildew, rust fungus, root rot|
All About Snapdragons
Antirrhinum majus. Source: douneika
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) are also known as dragon flowers or dog flowers. It is unknown where they originated from exactly, but they are native to rocky areas in Europe, the United States, North Africa, and Canada. Snapdragons are perennial, though they generally only last for 2-3 years. People grow snapdragons in classic flower gardens the world over.
As mentioned above, the snapdragon flowers resemble the head of a dragon, and once the snapdragon plant has gone to seed, the dried seed pods have been said to resemble a skull shape. Snapdragon seeds are very small, even smaller than a poppy seed. The foliage appears as short but slender leaves along a central stalk.
Snapdragon plants are non-toxic and are technically considered edible, although they aren’t generally consumed because of their bitter flavor. Cliff swallows and woodpeckers have been known to eat snapdragons. They were traditionally used medicinally as a diuretic, a treatment for scurvy, liver disorders, and tumors.
Snapdragon flower spike. Source: Mauricio Mercadante
Snapdragons are relatively simple to care for, and they are drought-tolerant once established. Although you may grow snapdragons as short-lived perennials, they easily self-seed and spread over the years if you allow them to.
Sun and Temperature
When you garden snapdragon, plant them in flower beds in a sunny location, especially in cooler climates. However, once the heat of the summer hits, they may stop blooming altogether. Planting in partial shade, particularly in areas with hot summers, will ensure your snapdragons beat the summer heat, and you’ll be rewarded with a repeat bloom in the fall.
They surprisingly survive in almost completely shaded areas in some instances if this will keep them out of the heat. Snapdragons are tender perennials and do best in USDA hardiness zones 7-11. That being said, they can also overwinter up to USDA zones 5 in protected areas. They will not survive over winter in the regions that receive sub-freezing temperatures.
Snapdragons prefer cooler temperatures, with their ideal temperature range being between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. During the heat of the summer, the flowers stop blooming and form seed pods. This is a great opportunity to collect the seeds. Also, if you keep your plants well watered at this stage then you have a better chance of getting a second bloom in the fall.
The flowers bloom in early spring and again in early fall. They can handle one or two light frosts, but a heavy frost will cause them to die back for the season as they cannot withstand sub-freezing temperatures.
Water and Humidity
Care for snapdragons – especially snapdragon seedlings – requires consistent moisture during the first few weeks of growth. A layer of pine straw mulch around the base of the young plants can help the soil retain moisture. Once established, snapdragons can be quite a drought-tolerant plant.
It’s best to water your snapdragons in the morning and avoid overhead watering as this can cause fungal growth on the foliage, like mildews. Water near the crown of the plant and provide at least 1 inch of water per week in times with little to no rainfall.
After the second bloom in the fall, you may cease watering. Allow the spent flowers to dry up and form seed pods. Then you can collect the seeds and cut the plants back to the ground.
In order to get the most out of these flowers, it’s important to create the soil snapdragons require. They are not heavy feeders and don’t need a lot of organic matter. They do prefer neutral well-draining soil.
The most important requirement here is the soil drains well as they do not like to be in standing water. They like to dry out between waterings. Snapdragons can survive a variety of soil types, including sandy and even rocky soils. This is part of what makes growing snapdragons so simple!
Snapdragon flower. Source: Joan Simon
As mentioned above, snapdragons aren’t heavy feeders and don’t require fertilizer at all. That being said, if you’d like to encourage even more bright snapdragon flowers, then you may want to apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer as soon as the flowers start blooming in the spring.
Make sure when you grow snapdragon plants to water well after the application of the fertilizer to avoid nitrogen burns. Fertilize once a month during the spring and then cut back fertilizing in the summer as the flower spike dies back.
In order to keep your snapdragon healthy and blooming it’s a best practice to deadhead the spent blooms. At the end of the growing season in late fall or early winter, they can be cut back to the ground. Other than that there are no pruning requirements for snapdragon plants.
Snapdragons tend to have tiny seeds (think tinier than a poppy seed) which can make them difficult to germinate. They require light in order to germinate and need to be sprinkled on top of the soil surface. They can easily wash away or blow away if direct sown outdoors.
If you’re less concerned about where they end up in the garden, the seeds can be winter sown. Sprinkle the snapdragon seeds around in the late fall, and they will germinate in the spring. Alternatively, seeds can be started indoors. Be sure to keep your seedlings moist.
When starting from seed indoors, transplant them 1-2 weeks before the last expected frost date so that they get plenty of the cool weather that they love. Seedlings grown indoors will give you a higher rate of success than direct sowing seeds outdoors.
Snapdragons can also be propagated from stem cuttings. Choose parent plants that are healthy and vigorous. Propagating from cuttings gives you the advantage of getting an exact copy of the parent plant. Since snapdragons cross-pollinate easily when you sow saved seeds, you may not get a snapdragon with the same appearance as the parent.
Take a cutting with at least 2-3 leaf nodes and place it in a glass of water. Roots will form within a few weeks. Then plant in well-draining soil or potting soil as you would transplant any seedling.
Snapdragon forming seed pods. Source: Dinesh Valke
Once established snapdragons are relatively trouble-free and it’s easy to keep a snapdragon healthy. Most issues arise for newly planted snapdragons. Here we’ll discuss some issues that may arise.
As previously mentioned, once established, snapdragons are drought-tolerant. Snapdragon seedlings, however, require consistent moisture. If your snapdragons are wilting (other than temporary wilting during the heat of the day), this can be a sign of underwatering.
Feel the top 2 inches of soil and ensure it stays moist but not soaked. As your seedlings grow they will become more and more drought-tolerant, and then they will prefer to dry out between waterings.
Common pests like aphids can be blasted off with a strong spray from a hose. In more advanced infestations, neem oil can be used to control them.
Spider mites prefer a dry environment with low humidity. Snapdragons that are kept well watered are less prone to attracting mites. Tiny web clusters on the leaves can be an indication of spider mites. They can be controlled with insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils.
The leaf miner is a small larva that feeds between the two layers of leaf material. If you see a swirling pattern appearing on the foliage, this is an indication of leaf miners. The only way to control these miners is to remove infected plant material.
In extreme infestations, alternative insecticides such as spinosad spray may be considered. Although, as they say, the best defense is a good offense. Providing diverse habitats for predatory bugs like ladybugs, the praying mantis, paper wasps, etc will help keep these pests in check.
Root knot nematodes cause nodule-like growth on roots and make your choice to grow snapdragon plants more difficult. During the growing season, treat your garden with beneficial nematodes twice in temperate times to prevent them.
Overwatering can cause the perfect conditions for fungus to take hold, especially in hot, humid climates. If too much moisture splashes onto the foliage during watering, then this can contribute to issues with downy mildew. Downy mildew is often mistaken for the powdery kind, but it appears as yellow leaf spots on the tops of the leaves with black spore masses on the underside of the leaves.
In contrast, powdery mildew appears as more of a white flour-like powder on the leaves. To prevent these issues avoid overhead watering and always bottom water your plants. Neem oil may also be sprayed as a preventative measure to reduce the colonization of spores on foliage.
In advanced cases of mildew, it may be best to remove and destroy infected plant material to prevent it from spreading to nearby healthy plants. After removing infected material, spray neem oil or a liquid copper fungicide onto the remainder of the plant and nearby plants to reduce the risk of further spread.
Fungal leaf spot is usually red, brown, or black. The spots often start small and begin spreading to infect the entire leaf to the point that it drops from the plant. Severe infections can defoliate the plant completely and infect stems. The fungus spores that cause leaf spots are airborne and waterborne.
Therefore, this disease is far less serious in dry climates with low rainfall. Growing snapdragons in an area with low humidity year-round can help prevent this issue. Trim infected leaves to prevent the spread and dispose of infected plant material carefully.
Rust and root rot are two other diseases that can strike your snapdragons. You’re dealing with the latter if you notice a rotten or mushy stem. If you see fungal growths on the leaves of the plant that are rust-colored, you have the former. While infestations are incurable, you can remove damaged foliage and try to replant in fresh soil.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lion’s mouth flower. Source: storebukkebruse
Q: How do you keep snapdragons blooming?
A: Plant them in partial shade and keep them well watered during the summer heat, and they will bloom again in the fall.
Q: Are snapdragons cut and come again flowers?
A: Yes, they do very well as cut flowers for arrangements.
Q: Should snapdragons be cut back?
A: Yes, they can be cut back by ⅓ after the spring bloom to encourage new growth and prepare them for a second bloom in the fall. They can be cut back to the ground after their final bloom in the fall and after the plants have dried and turned completely brown.
Q: Will snapdragons rebloom after deadheading?
A: Yes, they will bloom first in the spring and fall after deadheading.
Q: How long will snapdragons last?
A: Snapdragons are short-lived perennial plants that will last about three years.
Q: Do snapdragons continue to bloom after cutting?
A: Yes, deadheading in the fall can extend their bloom season, especially in milder climates where the weather remains warm for longer into the winter.
Q: What to do with snapdragons after flowering?
A: Prune them back to encourage more blooms.
Q: Do snapdragons grow back every year?
A: Yes and they readily self-seed. It’s easy to collect the seeds and spread them around your garden to encourage new plants.