Snapdragon/Antirrhinum – planting, care and tips

Flower of antirrhinum / snapdragon
Flower of antirrhinum / snapdragon

The ornamental plant is usually annual, but may well survive a mild winter with the proper protection or overwinter in a frost-free place. The snapdragon originally comes from the Mediterranean region and is native to both Southern Europe and North Africa. The garden flower is easy to care for and spreads by self-sowing. The flowering period can last into the fall in a sheltered place and represent the last splash of color in the garden.

Profile of antirrhinum:

Scientific name: Anthirrinum majus

Plant family: plantain family (Plantaginaceae)

Other names: dragon flowers

Sowing time / Planting time: January – March

Flowering period: June – September

Harvest time: harvest the seeds

Location: sunny, partially shaded

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutrient-poor

Use as a medicinal herb:

Use as spice herb:

Use in/as: flowerbeds, bouquets, group planting, containers, rose companion, farmhouse garden, country house garden, Mediterranean garden, rock garden

Winter hardiness: conditionally hardy, can withstand short-term temperatures of -5 to -10 ° C; annual plants are self-sowing (seeds tolerate higher freezing temperatures)

Plant characteristics and classification of snapdragon

Plant order, origin and occurrence of snapdragon

The common snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) is the best known species of the genus Antirrhinum, which was previously assigned to the family of figworts (Scrophulariaceae), but today belongs to the plantain family (Plantaginaceae). It originates from the rather dry Mediterranean zones and grows wild in rock crevices and walls. Already since the 15th century, the snapdragon is cultured as a garden and cut flower and therefore belongs firmly to the repertoire of annual summer flowers.

Characteristics of snapdragon


The snapdragon is an annual summer flower and grows herbaceous. It can reach between 20 and 100 centimeters (8 and 40 inches) in height, depending on the cultivated form.


The leaves of the snapdragon are arranged opposite and have an ovate to oblong-elliptical, pointed shape.


The flower of the snapdragon consists of several single flowers that are close together on short stalks, so that they resemble a spike or panicle. With light pressure, the flower opens like a small mouth. The flower colors range from white to yellow and orange to different reds and pinks. The “lower lip” has a characteristic yellow spot. Particularly attractive are the widespread pastel shades and two-color varieties. The flowering time of the snapdragon is from June to September.


Snapdragon – cultivation and care


The snapdragon grows wild in its native land in ancient walls and similar locations with dry conditions, preferably between the joints or larger holes in stones. Originally, the attractive ornamental plant comes from the western Mediterranean and is therefore dependent on warm and sunny places. But, from his native land the snapdragon also withstands colder winters.


As for the quality of the soil, the snapdragon is not particularly picky, it just should not be permanently wet, because it tolerates dryness better than wetness. Due to its robust properties it even grows as weeds on gravel roads. At the following site conditions the ornamental flower thrives splendidly:

  • prefers full sunshine
  • also gets along with a light shade, but needs a few rays of sunshine
  • in too shady locations, the flowering decreases significantly
  • tolerates a nutrient-poor and dry soil
  • like pervious soil, with sandy and loamy proportions and some gravel and humus
  • loosen too heavy soils in advance with some sand and compost soil
  • extremely sensitive to limescale, substrate should be free of lime
  • ideal is slightly acidic or neutral soil, but never alkaline
  • does not like waterlogging
  • for potted plants use rhododendron soil

Sowing and planting

Since the snapdragon is annual, it has to be sown every year. To ensure that the plants bloom from June onwards, sowing the fine seeds in pots from January to March is recommended. The seeds are slightly pressed into the seed soil and the substrate kept moist. As a cold germinator, the seeds together with the soil should first be kept in the fridge for a few weeks. To germinate the plantlets then need in a bright place with about 20 °C (70 °F) room temperature. Two to three weeks after germination, snapdragons should continue to grow at about 15 °C (60 °F) . So hardened you plant the small snapdragons from mid-April in the bed.

A well-rooted snapdragon can tolerate light night frosts, a fleece cover protects from strong late frosts. From the end of May you can also sow directly into the bed, but this leads to a later flowering. In the greenhouse early-grown plants can be set directly into the bed. Depending on the plant height, a planting distance of 10 to 50 centimeters (4 to 20 inches) is recommended.

Note: As snapdragon is self-sowing, it will grow every year anew in the garden, if the withered inflorescences are not removed. The young plants can then be transplanted in early summer or left standing.

  • sow from January to February at room temperature in the pot is possible
  • germination time is 2-3 weeks, under ideal conditions as early as 6 days
  • cover fine seeds only very thinly with soil, place them at a distance of 5 cm (2 inches)
  • keep the substrate moderately moist, but not too wet
  • simulate a cold spell by staying in the refrigerator for a short time
  • move from the end of April into the open air and plant
  • prick out before planting (shorten roots, so that they can branch and grow better)


So that the young plants branch out better, you first snap off the shoots at a height of 10 cm (4 inches). Later, regular ground-based cleaning helps to stimulate the flowering joy of the snapdragon.


The snapdragon is used to prolonged dry spells from its Mediterranean home. Therefore, it should be able to dry well between the individual watering, but not completely dry out. How often you have to water depends on the type of soil and the location. Since the plant does not tolerate lime, tap water should be dispensed for watering. Ideal is rainwater.

  • water regularly, but not over the top
  • keep the soil even and slightly damp
  • in full sun locations, more watering units are needed than in partial shade
  • protect the soil with sand or gravel against harmful waterlogging
  • use stale rainwater for casting


For its perennial blooms the snapdragon needs regular fertilizer. Suitable are compost, horn shavings or 14-day liquid flowering plant fertilizer. Watering with lime-deficient rainwater as needed, the snapdragon tolerates dry soil better than waterlogging. Nevertheless, the earth should never dry out completely.

Note: High growing varieties are often not stable, so it makes sense to support them with rods.


For common snapdragon, the hybrid groups are staggered according to their stature height: high forms reach 60 to 100 cm (20 to 40 inches), half high 40 to 60 cm (15 to 20 inches) and dwarf forms remain below 40 cm (15 inches). All hybrid groups are available in a variety of colors. In the garden trade usually color mixtures are offered as seed. Snapdragon ‘Rosella’ belongs to the tall forms and charms with pink, wide open flowers. The low-growing variety ‘Twinny Peach’ grows compact and only 25 cm (10 inches) high. The apricot-colored flowers of the mini variety are filled and weatherproof. The also low-growing variety ‘Bronze Dragon’ impresses with its pink and white flowers on almost black leaves. If you are looking for a hanging plant for hanging basket and boxes, go for the hanging-snapdragon (Antirrhinum pendula).


The perennial species can survive a mild winter in the local latitudes, but only with additional protection and in locations that are completely free from waterlogging. Balcony and patio plants are happy to move to a pleasantly temperate winter quarters.

  • partly hardy, can withstand short-term temperatures of -5 to -10 ° C (14 to 23 °F)
  • frost-hardy blossoms
  • cover with leaves, mulch and brushwood at the end of autumn
  • seeds tolerate higher freezing temperatures, survive extremely hard winters in the soil

Diseases and pests

As robust as snapdragons are against pests, so can fungal diseases plague them. Whether snapdragon rust, powdery or downy mildew: they all settle at the long-pointed leaves when they are constantly wet. Therefore, draughty, open locations are an advantage on which the foliage dries faster after rain. Sulfur-based plant protection products help against the fungi themselves. If the snapdragon is too wet in the bucket, root rot can occur.

  • infestation with aphids possible: wash plant and promote natural predators (e.g. ladybugs)
  • powdery mildew and downy mildew: pour moderately and treat with fungicides
  • root rot due to waterlogging: loosen the soil and make it more permeable
  • dark-winged fungus gnats: cover surface with sand to prevent egg deposition

Use in the garden

As a summer flower, medium and high snapdragon varieties in the bed can be combined well with other summer flowers and perennials such as sweet maries, garden cosmos, marigolds, garden aster, delphinium, Canterbury bells (Campanula) or balloon flower. It’s best to book entire bed for colorful snapdragon mixtures. They are great beacons in the colorful mixed garden. Low and dwarf forms are suitable for the rock garden, for the bed enclosure or as bucket and balcony flowers. The tall forms of snapdragon are also suitable as cut flowers.

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