Snapdragons produce delightful stalks of blooms in colors like pink, yellow, white, and red. Many gardeners mistake them for annuals, but did you know that snapdragons can come back every year?
This guide will teach you how to enjoy snapdragons in your garden as perennials. Skip to any section in the advanced jump below, or read on to learn everything you need to know to get started growing snapdragons.
- What Are Snapdragons?
- Are Snapdragons Perennial or Annual?
- Snapdragon Basics
- Where Do Snapdragons Grow?
- Why Grow Snapdragons?
- When Do Snapdragons Bloom?
- How Long Do Snapdragons Bloom?
- When to Plant Snapdragons
- Ideal Growing Conditions for Snapdragons
- How to Plant Snapdragons
- How to Propagate Snapdragons
- How to Care for Snapdragons
- Recommended Planting Combinations for Snapdragon
- Snapdragon Landscaping Ideas
- Recommended Snapdragon Varieties
- Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Snapdragons
- Where to Buy Snapdragons
What Are Snapdragons?
Broadly speaking, the name “snapdragon” refers to the genus of plants called Antirrhinum. Sometimes they are also referred to as “dragon flowers” or “dog flowers.” More specifically, the word usually references the species Antirrhinum majus, which is the common snapdragon.
A couple of other examples of species in this genus include Antirrhinum hispanicum, the Spanish snapdragon, and Antirrhinum molle, the dwarf snapdragon.
The reason for the name “snapdragon” is the shape of each bloom, which some people feel resembles a dragon’s head. If you squeeze and release the throat of a snapdragon bloom, the mouth of the dragon appears to “snap” open and shut.
“Antirrhinum” may seem an unusual name, but it comes from the Greek for “counterfeiting nose.” This, too, is a reference to the appearance of the blooms.
Culinary oils can be extracted from the seeds of this plant. The flowers can be used to produce green dye.
Are Snapdragons Perennial or Annual?
There seems to be a lot of confusion among gardeners regarding whether snapdragons are annual or perennial plants. But many snapdragons are short-lived perennials.
Quite a few people grow them as annuals, assuming they cannot make it through the winter. But this is simply not the case.
Many types of snapdragons are hardy in zones 7-11, and some types of snapdragons are even hardy in zones as cool as 5-6.
The reason many people assume that all snapdragons are annuals is probably because some snapdragons are annuals, living for just one year, regardless of climate zone.
If you have a perennial variety of snapdragon and you provide it with the right growing conditions, it should live for about 3-5 years.
Considering that 5-11 represents a very wide range of hardiness, growing snapdragons as perennials is something of a missed opportunity.
If you happen to live in a colder climate zone, or you buy the wrong type of snapdragon for your climate zone, you do always have the option of growing it in containers. You can bring a potted snapdragon indoors during winter and bring it back outside the following spring.
So, if someone gives you a snapdragon in a pot or you buy one, do not just assume it will die in winter and throw it away! That is a waste of a perfectly good plant.
|Spring-fall (and especially spring and fall)
|Up to 48 inches
|A rich, well-draining soil
|Full to partial
Where Do Snapdragons Grow?
The native range for snapdragons is in North America and Europe, where they grow in rocky places. They are cultivated widely throughout the world, however, as they can flourish in a number of climate zones.
Why Grow Snapdragons?
Here are some reasons to grow snapdragons:
• Snapdragons attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. In fact, they bloom during the cooler seasons when other food sources may not be in blossom, which may help the local pollinator populations to flourish during those seasons.
• As cut flowers, snapdragons are long-lasting. If you care for them properly, they should bloom for more than a week.
• Speaking of bloom times, snapdragons bring their color to your garden from spring through fall, putting on a long-lasting display.
• Although many flowers in the garden are toxic to pets, snapdragons are not among them. Your cats and dogs will be safe with snapdragons planted in your yard.
• If you have kids, they will love your snapdragons. As explained here, “Snapdragons, like many garden flowers, have a long history of enjoyment. Children love opening the jaw of the flower and watching it snap shut. Opening the dragon's jaw in just the right place is a skill passed down from parent to child just like the love of gardening.”
• Attain cottage garden perfection. These colorful flowers are likely among the first you picture if someone asks you to close your eyes and visualize a cottage garden. They make it ridiculously easy to capture that look in your own landscaping.
• Snapdragons are resistant to certain pests. Lots of blooms in your garden will attract slugs, snails, deer and rabbits, but not snapdragons. They do not like how they taste.
• The range of colors for snapdragon plants will take your breath away. Later in this post, we introduce you to some recommended cultivars.
• Snapdragons are hardy plants that last longer than you think. If you are assuming all snapdragons are annuals, you are missing out. A plant that can bring beauty to your yard for up to 5 years is a wonderful addition to any perennial garden. And since you can propagate them, you should be able to enjoy them for a lot longer than that.
When Do Snapdragons Bloom?
Snapdragons bloom from spring through fall, giving them a nice long bloom period. Be aware that they prefer cooler temperatures to hot ones, however. So the blooms are often most abundant in spring and autumn and less so during the blazing months of summer.
How Long Do Snapdragons Bloom?
The individual blooms of snapdragons do not last very long, but that is okay; these plants produce new flushes of bloom for many months.
When to Plant Snapdragons
The ideal time to plant snapdragons depends on where you live. If your climate zone is cool, then early spring is suitable. But if you live in a warm climate zone, it is better to plant them in late autumn.
Ideal Growing Conditions for Snapdragons
The secret to growing snapdragons successfully is to plant them where they will get the right amount of sun and enjoy suitable soil conditions. Below, we go over both, as well as what you need to know about watering these plants.
How Much Sun Do Snapdragons Need?
A sunny location is suitable for snapdragons. These plants require about 6-8 hours of direct sun daily. So, you can either plant them in full sun or partial shade.
Whether or not partial shade will benefit them depends on your climate conditions. If it gets to be super hot during the summer where you live, afternoon shade will benefit your snapdragons. They are more susceptible than a lot of plants to hot conditions. If your climate is a bit cooler, your snapdragons may be happier in full sun.
What Type of Soil is Right for Snapdragons?
Rich, well-drained soil is best for snapdragons. If you have average or poor soil, you can mix in compost to make it richer.
Doing so can also make your soil a bit more acidic or alkaline, however, depending on the pH of the compost itself. Snapdragons like neutral soil, so if your soil ends up being too acidic or alkaline, you might need to use other amendments to bring the pH back toward neutral.
How Much Water Do Snapdragons Need?
Regular watering is important for snapdragons to stay healthy during the growing season. As they need roughly 1 inch of weekly water, precipitation is often sufficient to cover their needs. But when it is not, you will need to water the plants yourself. Snapdragons in pots may need water frequently during summer.
To avoid problems with rot and mildew, try watering your snapdragons from the ground, not from above.
How to Plant Snapdragons
You can plant snapdragons directly in your garden beds, or you can grow them in container gardens. We recommend doing the latter if you are in a climate zone lower than 5. That will make for convenient overwintering.
1. Choose an ideal spot in your garden where your snapdragons will get the sun they need.
2. You will need to prep the soil before you plant the snapdragons. Loosen the soil down to 8 inches, getting rid of debris as you do.
You may want to mix some compost into the soil, especially if the soil is not as rich as it could be. Doing so will increase the nourishment it provides and enhance its drainage. Just keep in mind that these plants prefer a neutral pH, so you do not want it to be overly acidic or alkaline.
3. Dig holes in the soil for the snapdragons. They should be spaced apart 6-12 inches.
4. Remove the plants from the nursery containers carefully, and then set the root balls in the holes. The top of each should be even with the surface level of the soil.
5. Backfill the soil and water well.
Snapdragons can benefit from extra water when they are establishing.
1. Start by choosing your snapdragon cultivar and your container. Dwarf cultivars work great in pots, but you can grow larger snapdragons in containers too.
What size pot do you need? Around 10 inches of depth is enough to accommodate a dwarf cultivar. You may need a bigger container if you are growing a larger variety. As always, make sure that it has drainage holes.
2. Add potting mix to the container. Anything that is well-draining and contains ample nutrition will generally be suitable.
3. Remove the plant from the nursery container gently. Set it down in the new container, and fill in the rest of the potting mix around it.
4. Water deeply.
5. Pick a location for your snapdragon where it will receive plenty of sunlight.
Remember, plants in containers dry out more rapidly than those in the ground. Make sure you do not let the potting mix get too dry, especially when summer is at its peak. Sometimes this might require you to water them every day.
Thankfully, one advantage of having snapdragons in containers is that you can easily move them around.
So, if you notice your snapdragons struggling with the summer sun, you can put the pots somewhere they will get a little afternoon shade. You might then notice them start perking up again.
How to Propagate Snapdragons
You might be discouraged at the thought of your perennial snapdragons only living for a few years. But this turns out to be no big deal, because snapdragon propagation is easy, and you have a few methods to choose from: growing them from seeds or cuttings or dividing the roots. Below are directions for all three techniques.
Starting Snapdragons from Seed
To grow snapdragons from seeds, you will need to start them about three months before you expect the last frost of the year.
1. Get seed trays with drainage holes and fill them with seed starting formula.
2. Use a spray bottle to moisten the seed starting formula. Wait for any excess water to drain.
3. Sow the seeds on the top of the seed starting formula.
4. Push down on the seeds just a little bit so that they are lodged in the seed starting formula more securely. Do not cover them. They require light to germinate.
5. Cover the trays with clear plastic so that you trap moisture but still let the light through to the seeds.
6. Find a spot for your trays that is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a little bit different from what you might be used to growing other plants from seeds, as it is common to require warmth. But heating these seeds will not speed up their germination; it may slow it down or stop it entirely.
7. Monitor the trays for the next 8-14 days as the seeds are germinating. Now and again, you will need to remove the cover and spray the seed-starting formula to moisten it again. Then, you can put the cover back on. By the end of this time period, the seedlings should have sprouted.
8. Take the cover off when the seedlings pop up above the potting mix since they will need room to grow.
9. Place the seedlings in a sunny spot. If you do not have access to one, you can instead use fluorescent grow lights 16 hours a day. It is important to avoid using incandescent lights; remember, these plants are heat-sensitive. Incandescent bulbs are just too warm.
10. Once the seedlings each have two pairs of leaves, you should thin them out. There should only be one in each of the cells.
11. Burpee recommends taking a couple of additional steps, writing, “To encourage better branching, pinch the tops off when the seedlings reach 3-4 inches tall.
Seedlings do not need much fertilizer; feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.”
12. When the seedlings are ready to go outside, harden them. Take them outdoors for successively longer time periods so they can adjust to the elements.
13. Transplant the snapdragons outdoors once the last heavy frost is behind you. Light frost should not endanger them.
Starting Snapdragons from Cuttings
You have two options for propagating snapdragons from cuttings: you can do so in water, or you can try it in soil.
Both of these methods work perfectly well, but doing it in water is arguably the simplest option. So, let’s go over the steps for that technique.
1. Take your cuttings. Each one should measure a few inches.
2. If there are blooms on your cutting, remove them.
3. Fill a jar with water, and put the cuttings inside.
4. Set the cuttings in a location where they get indirect sun. Direct sunlight is too intense for them.
5. Keep an eye on the cuttings while they are growing. Now and again, you will need to add new water. Eventually, you will be able to watch the roots forming.
6. Once the roots have grown sufficiently, you can remove the cuttings from the jar and transplant them. Make sure you harden them before you plant them outside.
If you prefer to propagate snapdragon cuttings in soil, you can follow the standard instructions you do for propagating other perennials this way. Take your cuttings, dip them in rooting hormone, and then insert them gently into the potting mix in a container with good drainage. Water them as needed and wait for them to develop roots. Once they do, you can transplant them.
How to Divide Snapdragons
As summer draws to a close, you can divide snapdragon plants. Here is how:
1. Use a shovel to dig in a circle around the plant you want to divide. Avoid cutting the roots.
2. Push the shovel under the root mass, then pry it up out of the ground.
3. Gently shake off the loose dirt.
4. Once you can see what you are doing, divide the root mass.
5. Dig holes for your new divisions and plant them. Backfill the soil and water well.
How to Care for Snapdragons
Growing snapdragon plants successfully and maximizing their life spans requires you to care for them properly. Let’s talk about what to know about fertilizing them, mulching them, staking them and pruning them.
How to Fertilize Snapdragons
A balanced fertilizer works well for snapdragons, like a 10-10-10 formula. You should not fertilize the snapdragons when you plant them.
The best time for fertilizing snapdragons is during the blooming season. You should do so every 2-4 weeks.
These plants can be susceptible to fertilizer burn, so after you apply the fertilizer, you should water them. That way, the water will dilute the fertilizer and reduce the chances of burn.
How to Mulch Snapdragons
Mulch can be helpful for snapdragons during a couple of seasons: summer and winter. Good options for mulch include leaf mulch, bark mulch or compost.
The reason you may want to mulch your snapdragons in summer is to help keep the soil cool and lock in moisture. Remember, snapdragons can struggle when it gets to be really hot. They will be much happier if the soil is at least a bit cooler.
The reason to mulch them in the winter is just the opposite; you are insulating the roots from low temperatures. When it is getting to be time for the next growing season, you should remove the mulch.
How to Stake Snapdragons
Shorter varieties of snapdragons usually stay upright without major issues. But taller varieties may flop over without support.
It can be a bit tricky to stake these plants. One technique is to place a number of stakes in the ground around your snapdragons and then weave some string around the stakes to hold them in place. Another option is to use netting.
How to Prune Snapdragons
A combination of deadheading and trimming will help keep your snapdragons blooming prolifically every year.
How to Deadhead Snapdragons
If you want to encourage repeat waves of blooms throughout the growing season, you need to keep up with deadheading your snapdragons weekly. The best way to deadhead each stalk depends on what phase it is in:
• If you find a spike that has mostly gone to seed, you can cut it back entirely using garden shears. Trim all the way down to the base.
• If you have a spike that still has a lot of blooms on it, then just pinch off the spent blooms and remove the seed pods.
When to Cut Back Snapdragons
Sometimes, your snapdragons will mostly be producing seed pods and no longer developing as many fresh blooms. Once that happens, it is time to trim back your plants. Remove about ⅔ of their height.
At the end of the season, the foliage of the snapdragon plants will brown. That is a signal that you can trim them down all the way to the soil.
Are Snapdragons Vulnerable to Diseases or Pests?
Snapdragons can sometimes come down with diseases such as rust, fungal leaf spots, wilt, downy mildew, powdery mildew, root rot, and mold. Ensuring adequate airflow between plants and preventing wet feet can help to reduce the chances of diseases affecting your snapdragons.
Quite a few insect pests can cause problems for snapdragons. Some examples include aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, cyclamen mites, whiteflies, caterpillars, leafminers, and nematodes. There is even a species of moth called the “snapdragon plume moth” with a particular fondness of eating snapdragons during the larval stage.
Don’t let this get you down, though—there is some good news as well. Slugs and snails tend to decimate a lot of garden plants, but one thing they do not like eating is snapdragons.
Additionally, deer and rabbits dislike the flavor of snapdragons and tend to avoid eating them.
We have seen some reports that suggest that snapdragons might be poisonous to rabbits as well, so do not let your pet rabbit eat them.
Recommended Planting Combinations for Snapdragon
There are tons of great companion planting ideas for snapdragons. Here are a few of our favorites:
• Carnations: Like snapdragons, these plants are colorful cottage garden favorites. They can thrive in the same conditions and will help you achieve that look nicely.
• Petunias: A popular planting combination is a row of snapdragons serving as a backdrop for some petunias in a border.
• Geraniums: These plants love rich soil and full sun, and grow beautifully next to snapdragons. Keep in mind that they are tender perennials, so depending on your climate zone, you might need to overwinter them indoors. Indeed, they could be perfect for planting in your container garden alongside your potted snapdragons.
Snapdragon Landscaping Ideas
• Cottage garden: The colorful blooms of snapdragons are cottage garden classics. In fact, they are so readily associated with the look that it is hard not to give your garden that appearance once you plant them.
• Borders: Tall varieties of snapdragons work especially well as border plants. You can either grow them by themselves, or you can plant shorter flowers in front of them. Either way, you will achieve a spectacular effect.
• Container garden: Dwarf varieties as well as larger cultivars of snapdragons can grow quite happily in pots. These container-friendly plants are easy to bring indoors for the winter in colder climate zones.
• Cover a wide area: One particularly dramatic way to use snapdragons in your landscape is to plant them across a wide, empty part of your yard to create cascades of blooms.
Recommended Snapdragon Varieties
Whether you are shopping for snapdragons for warmer or colder climates, you will be impressed by the variety of colors out there to choose from.
It is useful to know that there are different categories of snapdragons.
• Group 1: These winter snapdragons bloom early and do not require as much sunlight as those in the other categories. They can be suitable choices if you are searching for something that will be hardy in a lower climate zone (like 5-7). Note that they are also usually small compared to other snapdragons.
• Group II: For medium-sized snapdragons that bloom in early spring, shop for cultivars in Group II.
• Group III: If you want snapdragons that will put on a show in late fall, consider getting cultivars that belong to this group. Take note that some Group II and Group III snapdragons bloom during both seasons.
• Group IV: For tall snapdragons that can do well even in summer, you might consider shopping for some Group IV plants.
Now that you are familiar with the different categories, below are some top snapdragon cultivars to consider for your garden.
• Calima: You can find Group III and Group IV plants in this series in a wide variety of hues including white, pink, yellow, and more. They grow to around 2 feet tall.
• Cinderella: This series of snapdragons is renowned both for its wide range of colors and its lengthy bloom time. Hues include yellow, red, salmon, cream, and others.
• Candy Tops: This series of snapdragons grows to around 2 feet tall, producing blooms in orange, red, white, yellow, and rose. They bloom during spring and autumn. If your climate is frost-free, you might also get to enjoy some winter blooms.
• Twinny: This is the name of a series of dwarf cultivars. Examples include Twinny Bronze Shades, Twinny Rose, Twinny White, Twinny Appleblossom, and Twinny Peach.
• Floral Showers: Another series of dwarf snapdragons to consider is this one, which is in Group II. Although the plants only reach about 10 inches in height, they will delight you with their numerous hues: purple, salmon, red, apricot, ivory, lavender, yellow, coral, and more. Some of these blooms are even bi-color.
• Frosted Flames: You know, with a dramatic name like “Frosted Flames” that this series is going to make your jaw hit the floor. Snapdragons in this series grow up to 18 inches tall and sport flowers in colors like pink, cream, yellow, red, and more, as well as some bi-color blooms. As if that weren’t enough, the foliage is also spectacular, with a combination of green and ivory hues.
• Liberty: The blooms on this series are red, white, pink, yellow, lavender, and bronze. They can grow as high as 30 inches.
• Chantilly: For abundant blooms on stalks as high as 40 inches, plant Chantilly series snapdragons. They come in purple, light pink, “velvet,” yellow, white, deep orange, cream yellow, salmon and bronze. They are especially popular for the longevity of their flowers.
• Little Darling: This award winner will surely become the darling of your garden with its sturdy spikes and blooms in red, pink, salmon, bronze, and other hues.
• Sonnet Crimson: If you want deep red blooms that will take your breath away, try planting the Sonnet Crimson cultivar. The stalks grow up to 24 inches and are very strong.
• Lucky Lips: This cultivar will steal your heart with its bi-color blooms. They feature white petals and deep magenta throats.
• Royal Bride: If you want a snapdragon with white blooms, try planting this cultivar, which can reach up to 3 feet tall.
• Night and Day: Here is a fascinating cultivar of snapdragon that produces blooms that are a combination of creamy white and deep crimson. While that would already be enough to delight any gardener, this cultivar has another interesting quality. When the weather gets cool, the blooms and leaves alike become much darker so that they appear almost black. There will be nothing else quite like it in your garden.
• Madame Butterfly: Another dramatic cultivar of snapdragon that will bring beauty to your garden is the Group IV series “Madame Butterfly,” named for the ruffled appearance of its double blooms. Colors include purple, red, pink, orange, white and yellow.
• Rocket: Unsurprisingly, this series of snapdragons can soar pretty high—up to three feet. Red, white, pink, yellow, and purple are among the colors available.
• Topper: Another cultivar of snapdragon that can reach up to 3 feet tall is this one, producing blooms in yellow, red, cream, and other hues.
• Candy Shower: If you fancy the idea of a snapdragon with a trailing growth habit, then you will adore “Candy Shower.” Try planting them in a basket to hang on your patio. You will find yourself standing under a shower of double blooms in yellow, rose, and orange.
• Black Prince: With its purplish leaves that mature to green and its dark crimson blooms, this captivating cultivar has a unique allure.
Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Snapdragons
Let’s finish up by answering a few frequently asked questions about snapdragons.
As slugs, snails, and mammals usually avoid eating snapdragons, chances are good that your culprit is some type of insect.
No, snapdragons are not poisonous to cats, dogs, or horses. Some sources say they may be toxic to rabbits, however.
Yes. You can eat the flowers, leaves, and seeds of the snapdragon plant.
The flavor of snapdragon is best described as bitter and crisp. Some people find it off-putting, but others enjoy it—especially after taking a bit of time to acquire the taste.
If you want to use it in savory dishes, you can add it to soups, stews, salads, rice dishes, and so on. Another option is to pickle these plants. One more way to eat them is in desserts, which may mask their bitterness.
If you are not too keen on their taste, you could just add them in small amounts to bring a burst of color to your recipes.
Typically, this is a sign that you are not watering your snapdragons enough, especially if it is happening during the summer heat.
If you suspect this is what is going on, try watering your snapdragons more.
Another possibility is that your snapdragons are not getting enough nutrition. You might need to add some fertilizer.
Sometimes wilting also results from disease. The appropriate steps to take depend on what your plant is afflicted with.
No. There is no such thing as a blue snapdragon. But don’t let that get you down—they come in every other color you can imagine.
Where to Buy Snapdragons
The largest selection of snapdragon varieties can be found online. So, we recommend going beyond what your local garden center offers. You will be astonished by the spectacular variety of snapdragon cultivars out there for you to enjoy.