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Cottage Garden Favorites: Snapdragons

Updated on January 20, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


Snapdragons are a perfect flower for a child's garden. The flowers, which look like dragons hence their name, open when you squeeze their sides and then "snap" closed when you release them. What child doesn't like a flower that they can play with?


Snapdragons are native to Europe, North Africa and North America. Here in the US, they are only hardy through zone 8. In colder areas, they are grown as annuals. Occasionally due to a warmer than normal winter, snapdragons will overwinter in colder climes but the plants will not flower as well the second year.

They prefer full sun and well-drained soil but can be grown in partial shade to keep them cooler in warmer areas. Snapdragons bloom according to air temperature, not sunlight. Bloomtime is in the spring. They will stop blooming as the weather warms up for the summer. Deadhead your plants, mulch them to keep the soil cool and keep them well-watered during the hot summer and they may reward you with repeat blooms in the cooler fall weather. Fertilizing every two weeks with a fertilizer specifically formulated for flowering plants is also helpful.

Snapdragons come in many sizes. They are classified according to their height. Dwarf snapdragons grow 6- to 8 inches tall. Medium ones grow 15- to 30 inches while the tall ones reach heights of 30- to 48 inches. Their flowers come in every color except blue. They may also sport bicolor blooms.

Snapdragons are pollinated exclusively by bumblebees because, unlike the smaller honeybees, they are strong enough to open the flowers. Once they are inside, the flower closes behind them and covers the bumblebee with pollen.


Most people buy plants that are already blooming at their local nursery for instant spring color. Snapdragons can be easily grown from seed, however. You can direct sow the seeds or allow the flowers to go to seed and allow them to self-sow in your garden. The seeds need light to germinate, so just press them lightly into the soil and don't cover them. You can even sow the seeds on top of the snow in late winter! As the snow melts, the seeds will be deposited on the soil and will germinate when the soil warms in the spring.

Seeds can be started indoors 8 to 10 weeks before your last frost date. Press the seed gently into the soil and don't cover them. Then be patient. Snapdragon seeds can take up to 3 weeks to germinate. You can plant your seedlings in your garden up to 2 weeks before your last frost date. They can withstand light frosts.

Poison warning

Every part of the snapdragon from its roots to its flowers is poisonous if ingested. Closely supervise young children and strongly caution older children when "playing" with the flowers. The plants and flowers can be safely touched but not eaten.

© 2015 Caren White


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    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      No, I haven't seen that. Are you sure that the bicolor blooms are coming from the same plants that had the mono-color blooms? That's the only thing I can think of.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      I love snapdragons--they remind me of my mother's garden and I now grow them in my garden as well. I had always wondered why the deer leave them alone (the list of things that they will NOT eat is very short indeed), and you have answered that question. I did not know that snapdragons are poisonous.

      Something very odd has happened with my snaps in just the last two weeks. I have a large pot on my front porch filled with snaps (the tallest flower) and surrounded by sweet alyssum and other pretties. I dead-headed the snaps because they had stopped blooming. They have rewarded me with new blooms, but they are not the same as the originals. The first blooms were dark red. These new blooms are white with dark red streaks. Have you ever seen that happen?

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      You are so welcome Jackie! You're right. They look like they are laughing.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I love these and need to get some in the ground...I think of them as such a happy flower or fun flower. Thanks for the idea!


    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      I don't recall any snapdragons that I have grown as having a scent. I will have to pay closer attention. Thanks for the vote and share.

    • eugbug profile image

      Eugene Brennan 2 years ago from Ireland

      My mother always grew these in the garden when we were young. Along with apple blossom, carnations, buddleia and blue bells, they have one of the most distinctive smells of garden flowers. I keep forgetting these are called snapdragons, I always refer to them as antirrhinums. They are a very easy to grow flowers for beginner gardeners.

      Voted up and shared!