Fundamental Facts

HARDINESS: Frost tolerant
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Neutral to slightly alkaline
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Well-drained, loam
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: Compact, colorful, fragrant flowers; for beds, pots, and cutting
SEASON OF INTEREST: Early summer and fall; winter in mild climates
FAVORITES: 'Rocket' for cutting; 'Potomac' for hot areas; Floral Carpet for edging
QUIRKS: Remove spent flowers to encourage flowering
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Ornamental grasses, irises, roses
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Cool weather; sun
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Fungal rust disease, and aphids
SOURCE: Bedding plants, seeds
DIMENSIONS: 10-36 in (25-90 cm) toll, 10-14 in (25-35 cm) wide

Snapdragon in the Landscape

Snapdragons are whimsical plants with lots of care-free appeal. Wands of flowers appear persistently throughout the summer, keeping bees busy, filling bouquets, and enchanting children, who like to make the "dragon" mouths of the trumpet-shaped flowers snap. Snapdragons have an alluring perfume, and if you pick the spike when only the upper blossoms are open, they last for a week in a vase of water. There's no need to gather other blossoms; a bunch of snapdragons makes a complete bouquet. You can harvest the flowers freely, as cutting keeps the plants performing throughout the summer.

The flowers come in a variety of shades, from subtle pastels to strident, fiery hues. Snapdragons are veterans of the cut-flower garden. But, because of their care-free temperament, tidy growth habit, and prolonged flower performance, they are finding their way into container plantings and perennial beds as colorful accents to prolong the flowering season. Standing 1-3 ft (0.3-1 m) tall, depending on the cultivar, their slender flower spikes make them team players that are easy to tuck between other plants for all-season color. The only care needed is removing spent flowers, or deadheading, to keep the plant producing yet more spires.

Snapdragons with compact dimensions are perfect temporary space fillers for new perennial beds of fledgling plants. They take up little space but blossom freely until the perennials mature and bloom, usually in their second season. The compact habit of dwarf series such as Floral Carpet makes them ideal edging plants or bedding plants to place beneath taller, bare-stemmed perennials and roses.

Increasing the Bounty

Snapdragons are readily available where bedding plants are sold, and buying bedding plants is the simplest way to infuse your garden with a few spires of sizzling color. For the broadest range of colors and two-toned flowers, called bicolors, buy seeds. Sow them indoors 8-12 weeks before the last frost.The seeds need light to germinate, so sprinkle them over moistened, commercial seed-starting soil, and do not cover them.They also prefer chilly temperatures, so cover the seed container with plastic wrap to keep the soil moist and set it in the refrigerator for 2 weeks before bringing it out and onto a warm windowsill.The seeds will begin to sprout in 7-10 days. Move seedlings into larger pots when they have 2 or 3 sets of leaves and grow them to sturdy size on a windowsill before planting out.

Spires Through All Seasons

There's no reason to wait with snapdragons. Transplant seedlings outside early in spring; or in warm-winter regions set them out in fall for a splash of color all winter, spacing them 8 in (20.3 cm) apart. If they've been acclimated to cold evenings, they will endure a few degrees of frost and perform most prolifically before hot weather sets in. During hot weather, snapdragons often stop blooming, but i will resume as soon as the heat wave goes by. In summer apply a 3 in (7.6 cm) thick layer of organic mulch, such as compost, shredded bark, or shredded leaves, to the soil to prolong flowering by keeping it cool and moist. 'Potomac' is a cultivar specially bred for hot-summer gardens.

Snapdragons require watering only to prevent wilting in a drought. Although rarely troubled by disease, they can fall prey to rust, a fungal disease that disfigures leaves with rust-colored spots. To prevent rust, water at ground level to avoid wetting leaves, or grow resistant varieties. 'Rocket' snapdragons show good rust resistance and make tall, straight spires for cutting. If aphids, small, pear-shaped sucking insects, infest growing tips, simply dislodge them with a strong spray of water from a hose, or apply insecticidal soap applied per label.

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