Helen Newling Lawson
Snap up some deer-resistant annual color
Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Think you can't have a bed of colorful annuals that can stand up to browsing deer? Getting the look you want is a snap with snapdragons. (Don't worry, that's the last "snap" pun, I promise.) The National Garden Bureau has named 2019 the Year of the Snapdragon to celebrate the multiple garden uses, fragrance, appeal to pollinators, and range of colors this classic cottage garden flower offers. Their photo of the Rocket Mix from Pan American Seed, used in the header image above, gives you an idea of the available hues.
I took at look at their educational materials to pass along some growing tips and other advice for successfully using snapdragons in your flower beds and containers.
Please note: Using the product links in this article earn me a small commission through my Amazon Affiliate Account but costs you nothing.
Before I jump in to how to grow snapdragons (Antirrhihum majus), we need to settle another point: are they an annual or a perennial? Traditionally, and for a large portion of the United States, snapdragons are grown as an annual. But for gardeners in Zone 7 and below, like me, they can overwinter and act as a biennial.
In fact, their preference for cooler seasons means that Southern gardeners can plant snapdragons as fall color, and enjoy a second season of blooms the following spring (plus, the plants are generally quite well established by this point, so it's a good show of color).
In my garden north of Atlanta, I had some that were planted in the fall of 2018 survive through that following summer, and bloom in both the fall and spring of the following year. However, around day 73 of our eighty or so days of 90+ temperatures in that second summer, they finally gave up the ghost.
Gardeners in the Midwest and other similar climates flip this planting schedule, setting out their snapdragons in spring, cutting back after blooming. hoping for a not-to0-harsh summer, and enjoying a second bloom time in fall.
Snapdragons of all sizes
Snapdragons may be an old-fashioned favorite, but breeding advancements have created lots of new varieties with options for tall, medium, and dwarf sizes, along with trailing varieties for containers and hanging baskets.
The ones you find in six-packs in the garden center are often dwarf varieties that ship and display well, topping out at around 10 inches tall, with a bushier habit that helps them fill in well in bedding arrangements and containers. Shown above is the Crack and Pop Mix from Flora Nova.
If you're looking for something to create a vertical accent in a sea of daisy-shaped flowers, or want to grow your own cutting garden, look for medium or tall varieties. Snapdragon introductions are often marketed as series: medium-height series include Liberty Classic, Solstice, Speedy Sonnet and Sonnet. The Snaptastic series combines the bushy habit of the dwarf types with the intermediate height of medium-growers (16-24 inches tall). Taller series, which can get to 24-30 inches tall, include Madame Butterfly and Rocket.
Candy Showers, shown above is one of the new trailing series, and can be grown from seed. For more snapdragons that can be grown from seed, you can check out my sponsored link to Botanical Interests below.
Using snapdragons in garden designs
As I've already suggested, snapdragons have old-fashioned appeal that make them right at home in a cottage-style garden, and also deserve a place in a cutting garden. The dwarf varieties are a great choice for the typical annual bed you might see in front of a home, around a mailbox, or in a commercial setting. And as discussed, with their cool-season blooms, they fit well in a garden designed to peak in spring or fall.
But snapdragons also have a lovely scent, that often goes unmentioned, so they work well in a fragrance or sensory garden. Their fun flower shapes (you do know you can squeeze the sides of the sturdy flowers to make the "dragon's mouth" snap open and shut, right?) make them a great choice for kids' gardens, and again, the fall and spring bloom times fit well with the schedule for school gardens. They also attract pollinators like hummingbirds and larger bees that can push open the flowers, earning them a place in gardens designed for birds and wildlife.
With the dazzling array of flower colors in hues that range from white, to pastels, to hot colors, and dark wine red, you can find a snapdragon to fit any color scheme or garden design.
What other questions can I answer for you on growing snapdragons in your deer-resistant garden? Ask in the comments below!
Amazon affiliate sponsored link:
If you've always wanted to give growing plants from seed a try, may I suggest you give the Deer-Resistant Flower Seed Collection from Botanical Interests a try? If you click on the Amazon link to the left, you'll be able to support this site by earning me a small commission from the Amazon Associates program at no additional cost to you.
The assortment contains Heirloom Snapdragon 'Tall Maximum Blend' along with other deer-resistant annuals like alyssum, black-eyed Susan, columbine, cosmos, foxglove, hollyhock, lavender, lupine, and nasturtium. The mix comes packaged in a recycled paper gift box tied with a bow.
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