Antirrhinum is a genus of plants commonly known as Snapdragons or Dragon Flowers. They are native to rocky areas of Europe, the United States, and North Africa.
Snapdragons are spiked flowers with small blooms running along a single stalk that first open at the bottom of the plant, then up to the top. They are tender perennials that are only hardy to about USDA hardiness zones 8 or 9. In most areas, they are commonly grown as annuals. Depending on the variety, they can grow anywhere from a foot (30 cm) to 4 feet (1.2 m) tall. Some dwarf varieties may grow only up to 6 inches (15 cm) tall.
Snapdragon flowers come in an extremely wide variety of colors. Apart from true blue, Snapdragons are found in every other color and sometimes bicolored in a hues blend. In many cultivars, the middle of each bell-shaped bloom will be a darker color, and the outside of the bloom a lighter color. The most common colors are pale pink and white.
Old European lore refers to Snapdragons as a symbol of both deception and graciousness. Medieval women would wear it if they wished men to stay away from them. Later on, it became popular in Victorian gardens. It is now a popular cottage garden flower.
Snapdragons will bloom most profusely in full sun to partial shade in the spring. Once the temperature heats up, they may stop blooming altogether. Planting them in partial shade and keeping them well watered will help them make it through the summer to begin blooming again in fall.
They like a neutral soil pH, between 6.2 and 7.0. As short-lived plants, they are not heavy feeders, but adding organic matter will help keep them healthy and blooming.
Snapdragons can be winter sown, meaning you can toss the seeds out in late fall or even on top of the snow, and most will germinate in the spring.
However, Snapdragons are most often either started indoors, 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date, grown from cuttings, or purchased as seedlings. When starting from seed, simply press the seed on the surface of the potting soil. Snapdragon seeds need light to germinate.
When seedlings have developed about six true leaves, pinch the top of the stem off to encourage branching and a fuller plant. You can do this with purchased seedlings too.
Transplant Snapdragons outdoors a couple of weeks before your last frost date. They can handle a light frost or two.
Regular deadheading will keep your Snapdragons blooming longer. They won't need much care early in spring, but mulching to keep the soil cool and moist can help them handle summer better.
Some taller varieties will need staking unless they are planted close enough to other plants to lean on them.
Snapdragons are tender perennials and may die off in colder climates. If they survive the winter, prune them back by about 1/3 to encourage new growth. However, don't be too disappointed if they don't last long. Snapdragons tend to go downhill after their first year, and it's best to start fresh every year. Many varieties will self-seed and come back on their own, although they won't always look like the original plants you planted.
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