In the garden, snapdragons are bushy, erect plants with lush, lance-shaped foliage that contrasts nicely with floriferous spikes. The flowers tend to open in succession, starting from the bottom of the spike to the top. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Don’t think of this plant as old-fashioned. Newer snapdragons have been developed, including azalea- and bell-shaped blooms and the double flowered. Plus they now come in all sizes: tall, intermediate and dwarf. There are erect, trailing and cascading varieties.
How to Plant
Amend the soil with humus or compost to create well-draining, rich soil. Seedlings and color packs can be planted outdoors in the fall for winter and spring blooms. Space them about 6 to 14 inches apart, depending on the variety. You can start seedlings indoors by pressing the seeds lightly on the potting soil surface. When they have developed six true leaves, pinch off the top stem for better branching and a fuller plant. Transplant the seedlings outdoors as early as a couple of weeks before the last frost date. Snapdragons thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring and early summer; but where winters are mild or summers are hot, they bloom best in winter and spring.
Snapdragons like full sun. Water once a week or more during dry periods, and fertilize with water-soluble plant food every two weeks. Deadhead regularly to extend blooming. For areas that are damp and humid, plant rust-resistant varieties.
Snapdragons are beautiful in cut-flower gardens, borders or large containers as vertical accents; dwarf selections are perfect in rock gardens and pots. Companions like baby’s breath and larkspur are ideal. Pastel varieties blend well into a mixed border filled with hotter pink, purple and red-hued plants.
For tutti-fruity fragrance, hot sunset colors, double flowers and statuesque beauty, the 3-foot-tall ‘Double Azalea Apricot’ takes the grand prize of all snapdragons and stands tall as a vertical accent toward the back of a mixed border or in the middle of a large pot. Intermediate-sized specimens, such as ‘Coronette Mix,’ reach 1-2 feet tall and look wonderful toward the middle of a bedding area or in the center of a medium-sized container. The Chinese Lantern series make great trailing or cascading accents in hanging baskets and containers, and the rust-resistant Rocket series grow 30 to 36 inches tall. ‘Magic Carpet’ is a dwarf variety standing only 6 to 8 inches tall; it needs no staking and makes a beautiful edging along rock gardens or raised beds.
California Getting Started Garden Guide: Grow the Best Flowers, Shrubs, Trees, Vines & Groundcovers by Bruce and Sharon Asakawa (Cool Springs Press, 2013)