Antirrhinum snapdragon

Snapdragons are one of our most ancient garden plants. Although susceptible to rust, they are becoming popular again, especially the rust-resistant varieties.

Coming in an enormous variety of colours and sizes, snapdragons make excellent plants for summer mixed borders and formal beds. They are also ideal for cut flower arrangements.

The taller varieties can form a spectacular display at the back of a herbaceous border; medium-sized varieties are useful for formal and informal bedding schemes; while dwarf varieties are ideal for edging and carpeting or for growing in rockeries.

Though technically sub-shrubby perennials, snapdragons are usually grown as half-hardy annuals.

Popular varieties:

Snapdragons grown in gardens have all been developed from Antirrhinum ma jus. They are divided into three groups according to plant size. Some come as single or bi-colours, others as mixed colours.

Below is a selection of readily available varieties.

TALL VARIETIES

These reach a height of 75-120cm (30-48in).

‘Giant Forerunner’ has densely clustered flowers in a wide range of mixed colours.

‘Madame Butterfly’, an F1 hybrid, has azalea-like double blooms in mixed colours.

‘Ruffled Super Tetraploid’ has large, ruffled, veined flowers in mixed colours.

‘Spring Giant’, an F1 hybrid, has large blooms on long flower spikes.

It is good for cutting.

INTERMEDIATE VARIETIES

These are the most popular among gardeners. Most cultivars in this group reach 38-45cm (15-18in) high.

‘Bizarre’ has speckled and striped blooms in a bright range of colours.

‘Black Prince’ is a compact plant with deep crimson flowers and bronze foliage.

‘Candyman’ has vibrant striped or freckled flowers in many shades on compact plants.

‘Corona’ is a colourful blend with well-held blooms on sturdy plants.

Antirrhinum majns ‘Coronctte’ ‘Coronctte’, an F1 hybrid, is a neat plant with flowers in mixed colours. It is both rust- and weather-resistant.

‘Dwarf Large Flowered’ has sturdy spikes of large flowers in striking colours.

‘Liberty Mixed’, an F1 hybrid, flowers early in the season and comes in a good blend of colours.

‘Lipstick Gold’ has striking yellow and red bi-coloured flowers.

‘Lipstick Silver’ has rose and white bi-coloured blooms on bushy plants.

‘Monarch Orange’ has glowing orange flowers with a cerise red throat to the blooms.

‘Night and Day’ has rich dark crimson flowers with a white throat.

‘Princess’, an F1 hybrid, has white blooms with a rose-purple throat.

‘Rust Resistant’ is a colourful mixture with some resistance to rust.

‘Sonnet’, an F1 hybrid colour mixture, shows good vigour and flowers through the summer.

‘Vanity Fair’ is a bedding mixture containing unusual intermediate shades of apricot, peach and salmon.

‘Yellow Monarch’ has clear yellow flowers and strong resistance to rust.

Antirrhinum majus ‘Yellow Monarch”

DWARF VARIETIES

These reach 15-30cm (6-12in) high, and have a compact bushy habit.

‘Bells’, an F1 hybrid mixture, has brightly coloured flowers, many of which are scented.

‘Chimes’, an F1 hybrid mixture, contains both single- and bi-colour flowers suitable for bedding or growing in pots on the patio.

‘Dwarf Bedding’ is a mixed variety which comes in an enormous range of colours.

‘Floral Showers’, an F1 hybrid, comes in a good range of colours and some bi-colours.

‘Little Darling’, an F1 hybrid, has unusual, azalea-like flowers which come in a host of colours. It has some resistance to rust.

‘Magic Carpet’ is an attractive mixture with a low-growing, spreading habit.

‘Pixie’, an F1 hybrid, has open- petalled, butterfly-like flowers early in the season. It is free flowering and comes in shades of crimson, red, orange, yellow and white.

‘Royal Carpet’, an F1 hybrid, is one of the best carpeting varieties, being vigorous, long lasting and resistant to rust. It can be bought in mixed colours.

‘Sweetheart’, an F1 hybrid, has small, double, azalea-like flowers in red, bronze, pink, yellow or white. It is resistant to rust.

‘Tahiti’, an F1 hybrid mixture, has some resistance to rust.

‘Tom Thumb’ is a neat plant bearing flowers in bright, mixed colours.

‘Trumpet Serenade’ has open- petalled, freesia-like flowers that are long lasting and come in mixed colours.

Cultivation

Sow seeds in trays under glass in late winter to early spring and keep at a temperature of 16-18°C (61 -64°F). Water seeds gently with a fine spray. Do not exclude light as this assists germination. As the seedlings grow, water with diluted liquid feed.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out and plant in boxes of potting compost. Harden off in a cold frame before planting out in late spring.

For early-flowering snapdragons, sow seeds in early and mid summer, and pot them in early autumn. If you have a warm, sheltered position, they can be planted outdoors in autumn, otherwise overwinter in a frame.

In the garden, set tall varieties 45cm (18in) apart, intermediate varieties 30cm (12in) apart, and dwarf varieties 20cm (8 in) apart.

For the best results, plant snapdragons in well-drained, light to medium soil enriched with rotted manure, although any well-cultivated garden soil is suitable. The site should be in sun or light shade.

Antirrhinum majus ‘Dwarf Bedding’

When the plants reach 7.5-10cm (3-4in) high, pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushy growth. Deadhead to prolong the flowering season, and stake tall varieties in exposed positions.

Pests and diseases: Rust is the disease usually associated with snapdragons. If your garden is troubled by this disease, make sure you grow only rust-resistant varieties.

Damping-off may affect seedlings, and mildew can be a problem with young plants. Look out for aphids on young growth in summer.

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