Snappy Snaps

Antirrhinum majus is the Latin name for the common snapdragon plant. Yikes! What a name! As with so many Latin names, this one honestly tells of the flower’s nature or element therein. Literally stemming from the ancient Greek words for “like a nose,” the Latin speaking culture of Roman times noted the bulbous, nose-like capsule in the flower in its mature state. Now that’s humorous.

Fast forward to modernity, and you have this Farmer in the American South writing about snapdragons. Truly one of my favorite flowers, snapdragons are a foray into floral fun for weeks on end in the garden. In the Coastal South, gardeners can plant them as an autumn and winter bedding plant, cutting them back to re-bloom during those seasons. Here in the Deep South, we can plant snaps in the late fall with our pansies and violas. Depending on the severity of our autumn and winter, we may get a glisten of colorful blossoms in those seasons, yet the spring is when these plants literally rocket into spectacular shades and shapes and make their statement on the garden stage.

Typically, I plant snaps in the fall with my violas and pansies. Along about December or early January, I cut them back by half, topping off any spent blossoms that may have sprouted. These leafy lanceolate leaves will stay green all winter, beginning to mound and then bolt and spike into sprays and arrays of gorgeous colors. And when I say gorgeous colors, I mean shades of every jewel, pastel, and primary you can think of, and then those in between! I absolutely adore the “bronze” snaps that bloom a beautiful salmon orange, throated in pink and yellow. Through their bloom time, these terra cotta colored gems will fade to milder hues of salmon and coral and pair well with so many riotous pansies in their crescendo of final bloom.

Several species of snaps reside within this genus, from the Rocket and Liberty series that can reach three feet in height to the dwarf and trailing varieties that spill over rock walls and pots. Whether tall or short, plant your snaps in the fall, trim them back in the winter, and watch them explode in spring.

As for a cut flower, snapdragons are in the league with lilies, delphiniums, foxgloves, and stock; for snapdragons will last in a cut arrangement for a solid week, even looking quite splendid as they fade out. With their hollow stems, they will soak up lots of water in an arrangement, so be sure to keep the vase full of water. Pinnacled in shape, snaps add texture and dimension to a bouquet or arrangement and are readily available in floral shops. Whatever your color scheme for your event, I am sure there is a snap that will suffice.

Snapdragons need full sun and good water during their winter nap and especially during their spring solstice show time. Remember, light is needed for floral production and photosynthesis, so keep your snaps in a sunny spot for spikes of color. Good, rich soil is also a benefactor to snapdragons. I like to use a loamy, “fluffy” garden soil with fertilizer built in, such as the Miracle Grow products. Native garden soil with amendments such as composted manure and sphagnum peat moss are also super planting compositions for snapdragon growing. In Northern climates, snaps may be used as a summer annual, and even a year-round plant in northwestern gardens, blooming and re-blooming throughout the growing season. The same light, water, and soil requirements are needed wherever you are in the country.

Now as for their common name, snapdragons are not called this just for quirky fun. their blooms look like a dragon’s head, and when you squeeze or pinch the lateral sides of the flower, the cheeks if you will, the mandible and maxilla per say of the flower will open up, snapping like the jaws of a dragon creature. These are fun flowers for kids and grown up gardeners alike, and I hope you incorporate snaps into your garden this fall. Since the incredible heat of our Southern summers practically slays these dragons, stick to planting them in the fall, pinching back in winter, and relishing in their fantastic show of springtime blooms. From this Farmer’s garden to yours, get snappy with some snaps for bouquets of fun!