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Past Articles Library | How to Grow and Care for Snapdragons

Snapdragons are a wonderful addition to container gardens and landscape beds. The variety of colors, which include red, violet, orange, pink, yellow, and white make them an easy annual to add when you want a splash of color.  While snapdragon blooms do come in solid colors, they can also be found bi-colored and mottled.

Beyond the color of the blooms, this plant has two different types of flower shape.  The classic snapdragon flower looks like two stacked flat hats.  On the other hand, the azalea shaped flower looks like the name applies.  To add more texture, these azalea-shaped flowers can be either have an edge that is ruffled or fringed.

The versatility of the snapdragon goes beyond the flower color to the range in height.  Shorter varieties, which are suitable for container gardens can be found that grow to one foot in height and spread a foot.  On the other hand, taller types do exist which work wonderfully in flowerbeds.  These varieties can reach a height of three and half feet with a spread of one and a half feet.  With this latter variety, you may find that you need to stake them up.  If this is something that you really do not want to do for an annual, consider intermingling the snapdragons with other annuals and perennials.  This variety of plantings will allow other plants to aid in the support. 

You may be surprised at this point to find out that snapdragons are actually short lived perennials that are sold as annuals.  If you happen to live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through 7, you will find that your snapdragons will come up year after year if they are protected with a good layer of mulch.

Another trait that you may be surprised of is the fact that snapdragons can tolerate frost and actual do much better when the weather is cool.  In doing so, the snapdragon will do its best from midsummer to mid fall. 

While you can go to your local garden supply store or plant nursery to pick up your snapdragon plants, it is just as simple to start your own from seed. 

To begin the process, one must first buy your seed.  When doing this, make sure that you are buying the correct variety for the use that you intend for the plant.  Characteristics to look for include the height and spread of the variety. Once you have selected your seed, pull out your calendar and plan your planting date.  Your snapdragon seeds will need to be planted six to eight weeks prior to your local frost free date but since snapdragons can tolerate a frost, this date can be a little flexible.

Once that date has arrived, you will need to do a little garden work before you can begin planting.  First, gather your supplies, which include an all purpose potting soil mix, and a flat(s) or container(s).  If you are planting a lot, consider adding plant labels to the list.

After you have your supplies, you will need to clean and sterilize your container of choice.  While you may feel that this step is an easy one to skip, do not.  An unsterilized container is a breeding ground for plant pests and diseases.

To clean and sterilize your chosen container begins with fill a sink or basin with water and a capful of bleach.  Place your container in the bleach water and soak for five minutes.  After the time has passed, scrub the container to remove soil, and debris.  Once that is done, rinse the container in clear water and allow to sit out in the sun to dry.  This latter step will sterilize the container even more through solar sterilization.

The next step is to moisten the all purpose potting soil.  The key to this step is to make sure the soil is not dripping wet but evenly moist.  Gently tap the container on a hard surface.  This will even out the soil level while pushing out any air bubbles.  Once that has been done, now you are ready to plant.

Planting snapdragon seeds is easy.  Simply open up the package and sprinkle on the soil’s surface.  Since these seeds need exposure to sunlight to germinate, only cover them sparingly with soil no deeper than 1/16 of an inch.

Place the planted container on a sunny windowsill and monitor the soil moisture.  In 10 to 15 days, you will begin to see little green dots on the soil surface.  These are your snapdragon seedlings.

Continue to monitor the soil moisture until the snapdragons’ have their second set of true leaves.  At this point, you can transplant them into individual containers.

To get the plants to grow bushy and produce more flower spikes, you will need to pinch the tips.  This task should only be done when the plants are two to four inches in height. 

One week prior to your planting date, make sure to harden off your plants.  What this means is you slowly expose your plant material to their outdoor environment over a week period.  After this time period, your plants have become accustomed to their new home.

To plant them in the garden space, make sure it is in full sun and well drained soil.  If the conditions are right, you can begin the planting process.  This starts out with preparing the container or garden space by incorporating a good amount of organic material.  Next, mark the location for each snapdragon plant with powdered milk.  Depending on the variety, you can expect to space 6 to 18 inches apart.  After this task has been completed, dig the hole(s) no deeper than the container and twice the width.  Place each snapdragon in its individual hole, fill in, and water.

At this point, you are pretty much done with any additional care except monitoring the soil moisture but things change when your snapdragons begin to bloom.  While they will continue to bloom on their own, they will really showoff with a little help.  This help comes in two forms.  The first form is simply cutting the flower spikes off.  Since snapdragons can be grown as cut flowers, this simple task is not a waste of the flower spikes.  Doing this simple garden task will tell the plant to produce more flowers.  Another task that will need to be done is deadheading.  This term refers to removing spent flowers.  This simple chore will allow the remaining flowers to last longer.  To deadhead, just snip off the blooms that have seen better days without removing the flower stalk.


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