But these cheery, vibrant annual plants are making a keen comeback.
Snapdragons are easy to grow, bursting with colour, wonderfully fragrant and beloved by bees and other vital pollinators.
Blooming from April to June and August to October, these powerful plants come in a vast array of colours and various heights, and can really bring a dynamic twist to your garden.
Perfect for beds and borders, they also thrive in containers to they are perfect for any garden, regardless of the style or size.
What are snapdragons?
Snapdragons get their name thanks to their snout shaped flowers which resemble the jaw of a dragon – the “dragon’s mouth” even opens and closes when squeezed laterally and makes a slight snapping sound.
Legend goes that concealing snapdragon will make a person seem cordial and fascinating. They’re also said to represent both deception and graciousness. Whether all that is true remains to be seen, but an absolute fact is that they are stunning plants that are guaranteed to brighten up your garden.
Snapdragons fall into three different categories which are determined by their height and are as follows:
- Dwarf – measuring from 6 to 15 inches in height
- Intermediate – measuring from 15 to 30 inches in height
- Tall – measuring from 30 to 48 inches in height
The variety in sizes makes this a multi-purpose plant well suited to bringing texture and structure to your garden. They’re also sure to complement other flowers.
Types of snapdragons
There are dozens of varieties of snapdragons, blooming in gorgeous colours of red, pink, orange, yellow, purple and white, as well as in bicolours, and both pastel shades to the brightest of hues.
With so many varieties to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start so we have picked out some of our favourites to help get you started.
This lofty snapdragon grows to a height of around 36 inches and comes in a variety of colours. They have sturdy stems with florets that are closely set and are extremely tolerant of heat. With eight colours to choose from these are a versatile option that are sure to bring a burst of colour to your garden.
Contrary to their name, black prince snapdragons actually have dark purple leaves and beautiful deep red flowers. Growing up to 18 inches in height, this variety enjoys warmer weather and will thrive in a spot where it can enjoy full sun.
This traditional variety is one you will commonly see in the gardens of country cottages. It blooms in pure “bride” white with a gorgeous dash of cream near its stem. Royal bride snapdragons can reach heights of 3 feet and have a glorious aroma. Plant near paths or house entrances to enjoy their delicious scent.
This variety grows to a height of around 8 inches and are among the tallest in the dwarf snapdragon category and are the ideal plant for beddings. They don’t come in as many colours as many other types, but they make up for it with the option of bi-colour flowers. They can be sown at almost any time of year and are perfect for rockeries, borders and containers.
This snazzy snapdragon was developed in the 1960s to give the flowers an open-face form. Unlike the usual characteristic lip of other snapdragons, the flowers of this plant take the shape of open bells and cluster together more tightly. This tall variety comes in seven colours, can grow up to 3 feet in height and will add real interest to your garden for much of the year.
This showy specimen is a delightful cross between rocket and bright butterfly snapdragons. Their flowers aren’t as open-faced as the butterflies but more so than the rocket. The madame butterfly snapdragons have fluffy, azalea shaped blooms and come in rich colours of red, orange, pink, yellow, white, purple and lavender.
This romantic variety of snapdragon is more of a trailing plant, with a bush-like quality. Their flowers are a little smaller than other types, and if placed in a hanging basket, their blooms and leaves will cascade down with beautiful and dramatic effect.
How to grow snapdragons
Snapdragons are undemanding and easy to grow, making them perfect for novice gardeners or those of us with a busy schedule. They are also a wonderful and rewarding plant to encourage children to learn about gardening.
Many varieties will repeat bloom, but all of them tend to do best in the cooler months of spring and autumn.
If you are keen to introduce snapdragons into your garden then but aren’t sure where to begin, we have put together a complete guide to growing and caring for these spectacular plants.
Snapdragons are not too fussy, but they do prefer moist, well-drained soil. Being short-lived plants, they aren’t heavy feeders but, they will appreciate it if you add a layer of organic matter to keep them healthy and happy.
If you want to get the most out of your snapdragons, then plant them in full sun to partial shade. Opting for partial shade and keeping them well watered will give them more of a chance to make it through summer and will often bloom again in autumn.
You can sow snapdragon seeds in early spring or autumn. If you opt for springtime, then they are best placed in a greenhouse or on a sunny window sill in a covered tray. You’ll want to sow the seeds thinly, on a surface of compost, then water and seal in a plastic bag or in a propagator.
When large enough to handle you can transfer the seeds into pots or containers and place in a sheltered spot. If you are planting them in beds or borders, then be sure to do so after the threat of frost.
Snapdragons are thirsty plants, so make sure you provide them with adequate water. Once established, they require an inch of water a week if there has been no rain but be sure not to over-water. You should also avoid over-head watering and instead aim for the crown.
To help your snapdragons bloom longer dead-head regularly. They will not require much attention in early spring, but you can help them along by applying mulch to help keep the soil moist and cool, and this will give them a stronger chance of surviving the heat of summer.
With their prolific flowering and beautiful colours, you will likely want to introduce these plants into other parts of your garden or share them with family or friends.
You can divide snapdragon plant roots by digging the plant up at the end of summer. Divide the root mass into as many pieces as you desire and then plant each division into a large container. You will need to keep the container indoors throughout winter and then plant into the garden the following spring.
It is worth mentioning however that these plants establish quickly so if you don’t have luck with propagation it is easy to replace them with fresh new snapdragons.
Pests and diseases
Snapdragons generally have few problems with pests, and although diseases are uncommon, the main things to watch out for are powdery and downy mildew, and Botrytis blight.
There are many options for getting rid of powdery and downy mildew, and one such option is, surprisingly, mouthwash. Most standard mouthwashes will kill fungal spores. Simply decant it into a spray bottle and spritz any infected areas.
Botrytis blight is a little trickier, but first and foremost be sure to disinfect pruners between cuts to prevent the spread of this disease. It’s then advisable to destroy infected plant material by burning; this will also prevent it from spreading to nearby plants.
Make your garden snap, crackle and pop!
Snapdragons are real show stoppers, producing long-lasting, dazzling displays of colour and elegance. Their boastful blooms can bring exquisite interest to your garden for much of the year, so there’s every reason to include them.
These plants are so easy to grow, thoroughly rewarding and, they won’t just make your garden snap, they’ll make it snap, crackle and pop!