Name: snapdragon, dragon flower, Antirrhinum majus.
Height: tall 100-120cm; intermediate 30-60cm; dwarf 15-25cm.
Plant type: short-lived perennials, often grown as annuals.
Climate: all climate zones.
Soil: moist, well-drained soil enriched with organic matter.
Position: full sun.
Foliage: small, lance-shaped.
Feeding: fertilise regularly with a liquid food for flowering plants.
Watering: water regularly.
Snapdragons are flowering plants that form a low, neat mound of small lance-like foliage with upright flower spikes. Their vibrant, two-lipped tubular blooms are available in single or bi-coloured forms in shades of white, yellow, pink, orange, red and purple. Their name is derived from the shape of the flower, which resembles a dragon’s head that ‘snaps’ open when pinched. Snapdragons are short-lived perennials, but are generally grown as annuals, especially in cold climates. They can survive the winter in warm climates, but plant performance tends to decline after the first year.
Snapdragons look wonderful massed in garden beds, pots or hanging baskets (dwarf forms). Tall varieties make fabulous border plants and great cut flowers for vases and bouquets. The edible flowers, which have a slightly bitter flavour, are perfect for decorating cakes and desserts, or as a colourful garnish on food platters.
In most climates, you can sow snapdragon seeds or plant seedlings from early spring, as long as the chance of frost has passed. They grow best in full sun and well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. Tall forms will need staking to prevent the flower spikes from toppling over in the wind.
Once seedlings reach 10cm tall, pinch out the tops to encourage lateral growth and bushier plants. Regularly trim spent flowers to keep them looking tidy and to encourage more blooms.
Water regularly throughout the season and mulch around plants to conserve soil moisture and suppress weed growth. Once flower buds appear, feed fortnightly with a liquid fertiliser formulated for flowering plants.
Snapdragons may suffer from rust, a common fungal disease that causes dark brown pustules on the undersides of the leaves. While many are now bred to be rust-resistant, older varieties can be susceptible. Treat affected plants with a suitable fungicide. Sap-sucking insects like aphids, mealy bugs and mites can also affect snapdragons, but these can easily be dispatched with a spray of insecticidal soap.
Grow snapdragons every year from seed or seedlings.
Angelonia: this floriferous annual or perennial is tolerant of heat, humidity and drought-like conditions.
Cosmos: a beautiful flowering annual with long, slender stems and vibrant blooms.
Billy buttons: an Australian native with lovely, golden-yellow, pompom-like flowers.
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