Snapdragons are a particular favorite of children who like to pinch the tiny individual blossoms and make the “dragon mouth” open and close. Their large, blossom-laden flower heads are faintly fragrant and come in in a wide assortment of bright colors. The vertical flower spikes, opening gradually from the bottom to the top, are available in two heights: dwarf varieties grow to about 10 inches while the taller types grow to a height of 18-24 inches. A vareity that grows up to 5 feet has been developed, but it must be staked. A single snapdragon plant may produce seven or eight blossom spikes in the course of a summer.
Snapdragons make excellent cutflowers and excel in beds and at the front of borders. Gardeners used to be less than enthusiastic about snapdragons as cut flowers because blossoms tended to “shatter”–drop off shortly after being fertilized by bees, but plant breeders have developed shatterproof strains. Snapdragons flourish in well-fertilized soil and full sun.
Sow seeds indoors eight weeks before the last frost. Moving seedlings outdoors as early as a the bed can be worked. They will tolerate frost. In Zones 8-10, seedlings started in a sheltered seedbed may be moved outdoors any time in the fall for winter and spring flowering. Plants should stand from 6 to 12 inches apart, depending on the size of the variety planted. Seedlings purchased from a garden center where conditions are carefully controled will usually bloom earlier than those started at home. If possible, choose rust resistant varieties. When the plants are 2 to 4 inches tall, pinch off the stem tips if shorter but more abundant flower spikes are desired. Then, as the flowers mature, use them freely for bouquets; the cutting will force plants to produce additional stems that will bloom later in the season. These plants will benefit from deadheading, which will prolong their flowering period.