By: Ilana Goldowitz Jimenez, Plant Scientist & Writer
Many gardeners have fond childhood memories of opening and closing snapdragon flowers’ “jaws” to make them appear to talk. Besides the kid appeal, snapdragons are versatile plants whose many variations can find a place in almost any garden.
Almost all types of snapdragon grown in gardens are cultivars of the common snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus). Snapdragon variations within Antirrhinum majus include differences in plant size and growth habit, flower type, flower color, and foliage color. Many wild snapdragon species also exist, though they are rare in gardens.
Snapdragon plant types include tall, mid-size, dwarf, and trailing plants.
Flower type: Most snapdragon varieties have single blossoms with the typical “dragon jaw” shape. A second flower type is the “butterfly.” These flowers do not “snap” but instead have fused petals that form a butterfly shape. “Pixie” and “Chantilly” are butterfly varieties.
Several double blossom varieties, known as double azalea snapdragons, have become available. These include the “Madame Butterfly” and “Double Azalea Apricot” varieties.
Flower color: Within each plant type and flower type several colors are available. In addition to the many single-color kinds of snapdragons, you can also find multicolored varieties like “Lucky Lips,” which has purple and white flowers.
Seed companies also sell seed mixes which will grow into plants with several colors, such as “Frosted Flames,” a mix of mid-sized snaps of many colors.
Foliage color: While most varieties of snapdragon have green foliage, “Bronze Dragon” has dark red to almost black leaves, and “Frosted Flames” has green and white variegated foliage.
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There are many varieties of Agastache, and all of them are high in nectar. Sunset Hyssop (Agastache rupestris), shown here, is part of a group sometimes called the hummingbird mints. These flowers are also butterfly magnets.
More border plants that are open invitations to hummingbirds are bee balm (Monarda hybrids), which also lives up to its name and attracts bees by the hiveful and those towers of flowers like delphinium, hollyhocks, and foxgloves.
Hardiness: USDA hardiness zones 5 to 10
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Bloom Period: Summer into fall
The traditional form of snapdragon flowers, the dragon jaw shape consists of a tubular flower with an upper and lower lip. If pressure is applied to the sides of the flower tube, the lower lip drops open, resembling an open-jawed mouth -- a trick that is fun to show to children. Actually, this is a pollination mechanism that ensures entrance of the thick-bodied bumblebees able to touch the correct floral areas to pollinate flowers and set seeds. The bees are heavy enough to depress the lower lip and enter the flower. Snap-type flowers come in all one color or with a different color on the prominent bulges on the lower lip or on the throat.
Read more growing tips in Snapdragons: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design in our curated guides to Annuals 101 (again, let’s be realistic). See more ideas for cottage garden design: