If you live in an area of the country where spring is late to arrive and fall
arrives early, then you need to plant snapdragons in your garden this year. You
should sow your seeds right now, so they are ready for planting by the end of
April into your garden. You can also purchase seedlings at the same time as pansies
are available at your local garden center. When planted early, snapdragons will
be in bloom in your garden before your warm season annuals like impatiens and
marigolds begin flowering.
Snapdragons do best in a cool climate like the Northeast and west to Oregon
and Northern California. They are very tolerant of cold weather and often flower
well into early November. Because of their love of cool weather, they will give
you great fall color when you plant mums and flowering cabbage to fill in the
holes of the fading summer flowers like your impatiens and geraniums. When I
lived in southern Massachusetts, I would cover the plants with pine needles in
late October, and the following spring more than half would have survived the winter
in my garden.
Snapdragons were found in southwestern Europe, growing as a wild pink flower
in open sunny fields. Over the years, seed companies have developed many new
hybrids of this plant and the work continues today to improve the color selection,
flower size and flower numbers on the plant. Snapdragons grow 9 inches to 4
feet tall in your garden and will bush out 6 to 12 inches wide or more from spring
to fall. If you live near the ocean or a lake where temperatures are always cooler
than inland this is a must-have flower for your garden; the plant will also tolerate
a bit of late in the day shade.
Snapdragons love a fertile soil so the better you prepare it with animal manure,
compost or seaweed kelp, the better the plant will grow for you. In the fall,
blend your shredded leaves and pine needles into the garden to help add organic
matter to the soil. Just push your lawn mower over your leaves to chop them up
a bit before mixing with the soil. Go to the beach and pick up seaweed that washed
up onto the beaches in September or October and add that to your garden
soil. If you have woods behind your house, take your wheelbarrow and a shovel
along with you and dig up some of the wonderful composted leaf mulch to add to
your garden soil. All these things will help to better the soil in your gardens
and help your plants grow better with less fertilizer.
Snapdragons have wonderful dark green foliage that is oval with a slight point
on the tip. Leaves grow 1 to 3 inches long and less than 1 inch wide, with a
sunken vein running down the center on the leaf. The leaves grow alternately
up the stem and almost look like they are growing in a whirl around the flower
stem. Unlike most annuals, the foliage of the plant will tolerate frost once
the plant has acclimated to the weather, so be sure to harden off your seedlings
you're going to plant out in the garden properly before planting.
You can plant snapdragons two ways in the spring, pinched or un-pinched. If
you set out the plant without pinching the tip of the plant, it will quickly
grow tall and make a single large and tall flower stock filled with flowers in
just a few weeks, depending on the age of the plant. When the flower stem fades
remove it and the plant will quickly begin to develop many side shoots that in
time will all make spikes of flowers and continue flowering all summer long.
Or at the time of planting, you can pinch back the tips of the stems to encourage side
shoots to develop early. This will delay flowering by 2 to 3 weeks--but the plants
will grow much bushier and produce many more flower stems to give your garden
better color. As these flower stems fade, pinch them off and the plant will bush
off again and continue to make additional flowers stems all summer long. I always
pinch my plants and it really pays off with more flowers during the growing season.
Snapdragons love to be fertilized every 2 weeks during the growing season,
and this will pay off with large and more flower spikes. So use Blooming and
Rooting fertilizer from Ferti-lome or, if you're a busy gardener, apply Osmocote
time-release fertilizer when planting and again in late July for endless flowers
right up to November. I like to do both and my plants provide me with endless
stems for cutting.
Snapdragons can be planted in flowerbeds, in borders and do very well in containers
also. Because snapdragons grow vertically, they will help give your garden extra
height--and they make a great accent flower for the garden. Each flower spike
will last for several weeks in the garden and the flowers bloom from the bottom
up and slowly open new flowers on top of the older ones, keeping the top of the
flower spike in constant color.
Here are a few of the wonderful varieties to look for at your local garden
center or seed packs to purchase:
'Floral Carpet' will grow 8 to 10 inches tall and 12 inches
wide. Great for flower borders, window boxes rock gardens and containers. Comes
in White, yellow, pink and red colors--and if you continually clean faded stems,
the plant will not stop flowering for you all season long. 'Floral Carpet' also
looks great when planted on top of a wall or when used as edging along a walkway.
'Sonnet' will grow 18 to 24 inches tall and looks great in
mixed borders or large planters like whiskey barrels. Plants come in shades of
reddish/pink, yellow/bronze, and white flowers; the plant stays bushy and full
growing. Stems can be cut for small vase arrangements.
'Bright Butterfly' will grow 2 to 2.5 feet tall and is great
for borders, in cut flower gardens, and looks wonderful when added to large perennial
flowerbeds to keep color all season long. Flower colors come in shades of red,
pink, bronze, yellow and white. The flowers are also more ruffled than the other
varieties of snapdragons and look unique.
'The Rocket' will grow 2.5 to 3 feet tall--and more if you
prepare your soil properly. Plants grow large and full--12 inches or more in
diameter--and are very sturdy, but should be sheltered from strong winds because
of the height of the flowers. The flowers come in shades of red, pink, bronze,
yellow and white. Some of the plants will also have bronze to red stems and foliage
for extra character. The best for tall-cutting flower stems. The plants will
look wonderful in mixed borders, in perennial flower beds or up against a wall
or fence to soften the surface behind them. 'Rockets' are my favorite variety, and
I grow them every year in my garden.
One last thing: insect and disease problems are minimal and the plants are
very easy to grow--even for beginners! Enjoy.
Click to print this article.