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What is a Snap Dragon?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Snap dragons are showy annual flowers which enjoy full to partial sun and mild weather. The flowering plants are also spelled as snapdragons in some regions. However you spell it, the snap dragon is an unusual looking flower, and some varieties can be literally snapped, making a popping sound and resembling a gaping mouth. Some young children enjoy making snap dragon puppets with the blooms, and some adults have been known to indulge as well.

The flowers are in the genus Antirrhinum, and most of the plants cultivated for ornamental use are Antirrhinum majus. They are distinguished by two lipped flowers which grow in clusters on long stalks, with simple leaves. The flowers can come in a wide range of colors, including yellow, white, pink, red, and orange. Some snap dragon varieties are bi-colored, or streaked with color, depending on the cultivar. Technically, the snap dragon is a perennial, at least in warmer regions in warmer regions, and the flowers can be coaxed to flourish and bloom in temperate zones.

Most garden supply stores sell snap dragons as annuals, however, since they are not very cold tolerant. In cool regions, a snap dragon assortment can be planted in late spring and early summer, and the flowers will continue to bloom until the first frost. The plants prefer full sun, but varieties low to the ground can be grown in partial shade. Taller cultivars such as the rocket snap dragon require full sun.

When grown as annuals, snap dragons can be used to edge flower beds, if they are short cultivars, or for lush backgrounds in the rear of flower beds, in the case of tall varieties. Snap dragons can also be used as cut flowers, adding height to cut flower arrangements. Regularly removing the dead flowers and pinching the ends of the branches will encourage snap dragons to sprawl and to keep producing flowers. When gardeners use the snap dragon as a perennial, it is important to encourage the plants to grow big and strong with the use of fertilizer and ample water.

Gardeners can start snap dragons from seed in the greenhouse, or purchase seedlings from garden stores. The snap dragon sprouts should be planted in rich, well drained soil with as much sun exposure as possible, and watered frequently. Annual snap dragons can be grown tightly together to make a smooth, uniform border, while perennials should be given more room to grow. For fall blooming, plant snap dragons a little bit later in the summer, so that they will reach blooming peak in September and October.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon2635 — On Jul 19, 2007

I have been told that snap dragons have a 2 year life span. Mine are 2 years old and are dying. Do they reseed themselves, or will I have to buy new plants and start over?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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