Snapdragon Family

The snapdragon or figwort family (Scrophulariaceae), class Dicotyledon, is composed of about 3-4,000 Indian paintbrush (Castilleja sp.). Photograph by Robert J. Huffman. Field Mark Publications. Reproduced by permission. species and 200 genera of vascular plants. Species in this family occur on all continents except Antarctica, but are most diverse in temperate and mountain ecosystems.

Most species in the snapdragon family are perennial herbs, growing new above-ground shoots each year from a long-lived rootstock or rhizome system. Some species are partially parasitic, obtaining some of their nutrition by tapping the roots of other species of plants. The flowers of these plants are bilaterally symmetric (each half is a mirror image of the other), and are usually pollinated by insects. Like other flowers that must attract animals to achieve pollination, those of most species in the snapdragon family are showy and attractive.

Some species are of economic importance. An alkaloid chemical variously known as digitalis, digitalin, or digitoxin is obtained from the foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), and is a valuable cardiac glycoside, used in stimulating the heart. In larger doses, however, this chemical can be poisonous.

Various species in the snapdragon family are grown as attractive ornamentals in gardens and greenhouses. Some of the more commonly cultivated groups include the snapdragons (Antirrhinum spp.), slipper flower (Calceolaria), foxglove, monkey flower (Mimulus spp.), speedwell (Veronica spp.), and beard-tongue (Penstemon spp.).

Many species in the snapdragon family are native to various habitats in North America. Some of the most attractive wild species are the paintbrushes, such as the spectacular, scarlet painted-cup (Castilleja coccinea). Other attractive native species include the turtlehead (Chelone glabra), the various species of eyebright (Euphrasia spp.), and the louseworts and wood betonies (Pedicularis spp.). The latter group includes the Furbish’s lousewort (P. furbishiae), a rare and endangered species that only occurs in the valley of the Saint John River in Maine and New Brunswick. The Furbish’s lousewort became highly controversial because of the risks posed to its survival by the construction of a hydroelectric reservoir that would have flooded most of its known habitat.

Some species in the snapdragon family have been introduced to North America, where they have become weeds. Examples of these invasive plants include the mullein (Verbascum thapsis), displaying yellow flowers and developing a flowering stalk 6.6 ft (2 m) or more tall, and the smaller plant known as butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris).


Flower Pictures Of Snapdragons

Yellow Snapdragon

Basic Snapdragon Flower Information

Common Names

Scientific Name
Genus species Antirrhinum asarina
Family Scrophulariaceae

Since Victorian times, a special meaning has been attached to flowers. Each flower or flower color is a symbolic representation of an emotion or expression. A highly versatile, spiky flower that comes from the Mediterranean area.

Snapdragon Flower Meaning
Deception, gracious lady.

Snapdragons are, also, associated with:

Astrological Flowers

Birth Month Flower

Floral Design Qualities For Snapdragons

Type Of Use: Flower

Form: Line

Fragrance: N/A

Line: Straight

Silhouette: Dense/ Spike

Blossom Texture: Irregular

Stem Size: 14-30”

Blossom Size: <1/2- 1”

Vase Life: 5-16 Days

Snapdragon Design Uses
Snapdragons make wonderful additions to multicolored and monochromatic mixed bouquets.

Snapdragon Flower Colors
Reds, Oranges, Yellows, Blues/Purples, Purples

General Flower Availability
Year Round, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Wedding Flower Availability
Year Round, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter


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Antirrhinum majus

Snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus, is native to parts of China and the US. Its name comes from the pinchable blossoms that open and close like the mouths of friendly dragons.

This self-sowing annual is often referred to as a perennial, because it tolerates some frost, and its seeds come up yearly in temperate zones.

It is a member of the Plantaginaceae, or plantain, family, a sub-group of the expansive Scrophulariaceae, or figwort, family of plants that includes several others with which you may familiar.

Bi-colored A. majus blooms in a sunny garden.

One is toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), aka butter and eggs, a common sight along country roads. It, too, has a hinged-style mouth.

Snapdragon flowers make a gorgeous addition to the cutting garden, for use in bouquets. Get our growing tips now on Gardener’s Path.

Other members of this large plant group have stationary mouths, like summer snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia), beardtongue (Penstemon), wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri), and foxglove (Digitalis).

Classic characteristics of figworts are their squarish stems, and spikes of open-lipped blossoms.

Here’s what’s ahead in this quick growing guide:

How to Grow Snapdragon

  • Cultivation in the Garden
  • Plant Facts
  • Where to Buy
  • Bold and Structural

Cultivation in the Garden

Snapdragon has much to offer in the garden. It is available in dwarf varieties with heights up to one foot, as well as tall types that top out at three feet. It is a species that grows well in zones 7 to 10.

Colorful snapdragons share a garden bed with petunias and marigolds.

You may start seeds indoors, or sow outside after the last hard frost. Select a sunny location with loose, well-draining soil that has been amended with organic material, like leaf mulch or compost.

When seedlings are about four inches tall, pinch them back to encourage fullness and multiple flower stems.

As stems rise, they produce cones of buds that open from the bottom, up. As the lowest wither, pinch them off to encourage more to open.

About mid-summer, cut the dead flower stalks from your tall plants to a height of about 4 to 6 inches, and add a little compost. By autumn, they’ll bloom again. Let the seeds fall and see what comes up next year.

Snapdragon hybrids are available in an array of bright, velvety colors as seeds or nursery plants. Those that say “rust-resistant” are your best bets, as they have been bred to stand up to one of the biggest threats to this species, Puccinia antirrhini, a fungus that causes rust-spotted leaves.

Choose single- or double-petal and bi- or tri-colored varieties for a sensation in the garden, and as cut flowers for vase arrangements.

And now, let’s recap! This quick guide will be here whenever you need it.

Plant Facts

  • Annual flower
  • Cultivar variations include single or double bi- or tri-color blossoms
  • Deadhead to prolong blooming
  • Dwarf and tall varieties
  • Full sun
  • Mid-summer cutback for late season re-bloom
  • Pinch seedlings back to encourage multiple flower stem formation
  • Rust-resistant hybrids are best
  • Variety of colors including orange, pink, purple, white, and yellow
  • Well-drained, loose, organically-rich soil
  • Zones 7 to 10

Where to Buy

‘Rocket’ Series Snapdragon in Rose

The ‘Rocket’ series of hybrid annual snapdragon seeds is available from True Leaf Market. Select bronze, cherry, golden, lemon, pink, red, rose, or a mixed batch.

A. Majus Pumilum ‘Magic Carpet’ Seeds, available from Eden Brothers

For another beautiful selection, try the ‘Magic Carpet’ mix, in shades of red, pink, apricot, and yellow. This dwarf variety will reach about 8 inches in height.

A. Majus Maximum ‘Brighton Rock’ Seeds, available from Eden Brothers

‘Brighton Rock’ is an exciting heirloom variety that pollinators love. Enjoy a blend of pastel and bi-colored blooms, in shades of red and orange.

A. Majus Maximum ‘Snowflake’ Seeds, available from Eden Brothers

Or, if you’re a fan of white flowers, ‘Snowflake’ is the cultivar for you, with snowy white blossoms on stems that will reach about 36 inches in height, so it’s perfect for cutting.

Bold and Structural

For a great addition to your cutting garden, look no further than today’s hybrids or heirloom varieties of an old-time favorite, the humble snapdragon.

You can’t beat the vivid hues they’ll contribute to beds and borders. As a cut flower, it draws the eye to its bright, linear form. And best of all, since it blooms from the bottom up, buds keep opening after it’s cut and placed in a vase.

How about adding a few dwarf varieties for visual interest and texture at the front of your beds, and tall ones to anchor the back? Choose colors to suit an existing scheme or define a new one.

From great curb appeal to fabulous flower arrangements, snapdragon makes a bold, structural statement wherever it goes!

Feel free to share any cultivation questions you may have with us in the comments, and be sure to check out our full archive of flower growing tips.


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Product photos via True Leaf Market and Eden Brothers. Uncredited photos: . With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

Snapdragon Winter Care – Tips On Overwintering Snapdragons

Snapdragons are one of the charmers of summer with their animated blooms and ease of care. Snapdragons are short-term perennials, but in many zones, they are grown as annuals. Can snapdragons survive winter? In temperate zones, you can still expect your snappies to come back the next year with a little preparation. Try some of our tips on overwintering snapdragons and see if you don’t have a lovely crop of these puffed blooms next season.

Can Snapdragons Survive Winter?

The United States Department of Agriculture lists snapdragons as hardy in zones 7 to 11. Everyone else will have to treat them as an annual. Snapdragons in the cooler zones can benefit from some protection from winter’s chill. Snapdragon winter care is a “snap,” but you have to be proactive and apply a little TLC to these babies before freezing temperatures make their appearance.

Snapdragons grown in hotter zones perform best when planted in the cool season. That means if your zone has hot summers and mild winters, use them as fall and winter plantings. They will suffer a bit in the heat but rebloom in fall. Temperate and cooler regions use the flowers in

spring and summer. Once the cold season approaches, blooms fall off and buds stop forming. Foliage will die back and plants will melt into the ground.

Temperate zone gardeners don’t have to worry about overwintering snapdragons, as they generally sprout right back when soil softens and ambient temperatures warm up in spring. Gardeners in areas with severe winter weather will have to take more steps when preparing snapdragons for winter unless they simply want to reseed or purchase new plants in spring.

Snapdragon Winter Care in Temperate Zones

My region is considered temperate and my snapdragons freely reseed themselves. A thick coating of leaf mulch is all I ever need to do to the bed in fall. You may also choose to use compost or fine bark mulch. The idea is to insulate the root zone from cold shock. It is helpful to pull back the organic mulch in late winter to early spring so the new sprouts can easily come through the soil.

Snapdragons in winter temperate zones will simply compost back into the soil or you can cut plants back in fall. Some of the original plants spring back in the warm season but the numerous seeds that were self-sown freely sprout as well.

Preparing Snapdragons for Winter in Cold Regions

Our northern friends have a tougher time saving their snapdragon plants. If sustained freezes are part of your local weather, mulching might save the root zone and allow the plants to regrow in spring.

You can also dig up the plants and move them indoors to overwinter in the basement or garage. Provide moderate water and medium light. Increase the water and fertilize in late winter to early spring. Gradually reintroduce the plants to the outdoors in April to May, when temperatures have begun to warm and soil is workable.

Alternatively, harvest seeds as the plants begin to die back, usually around September or early October. Pull dried flower heads and shake into bags. Label them and save them in a cool, dry, dark area. Start snapdragons in winter indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the date of the last frost. Plant the seedlings outdoors in a prepared bed after hardening them off.

Snap Dragon

(Antirrhinum majus)

Interesting Information About Plant:

Dwarf snapdragons can be two inches tall. This plant commonly grows along the shoulder of long highways giving the impression that it is immune to herbicides. This plant has favors railroad track areas for its habitat. Dwarf species are hard to mow with a lawnmower but are easy to pull since they have shallow root systems. This plant was once considered a weed. These can spread at a rate of ten miles per season.

Scientific Name: Antirrhinum majus

Family Name (Scientific and Common): Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)

Continent of Origin: Europe (Western Mediterranean region)

Plant Growth Habit: Upright Herbaceous

Height at Maturity: Less than 1 foot (these can be between 1 and three feet but the species on campus were dwarf)

Life Span: These are perennials but usually grown as Annual (herbaceous) due to poor gardening

Seasonal Habit: Herbaceous That Stays Green Through Winter

Growth Habitat: Partial Sun

Manner of Culture: Garden (flower)

Thorns on Younger Stem: No

Cross Section of Younger Stem: Roundish

Stem (or Trunk) Diameter: Less Than The Diameter of a Pencil

Produces Brownish Bark: No

Bark Peeling in Many Areas: No

Characteristics of Mature (Brownish) Bark: Lines Go Up-Down

Type of Leaf: Flat, Thin Leaf

Length of Leaf (or Leaflet): Less than Length of a Credit Card

Leaf Complexity: Simple

Edge of Leaf: Smooth

Leaf Arrangement: Alternate on upper region / Opposite on lower region

Leaf has Petiole: No

Patterns of Main-Veins on Leaf (or Leaflet): Parallel

Leaf Hairiness: Somewhat Hairy

Color of Foliage in Summer: Green

Change in Color of Foliage in October: No Change

Flowering Season: Winter/Spring / Summer (not much)/ Autumn

Flowers: Tightly Clustered

Type of Flower: Colorful Flower

Color of Flower: White / Yellow / Red / Purple /Multicolored

Shape of Individual Flower: Other

Size of Individual Flower: Between a Quarter and the Length of a Credit Card

Sexuality: Male and Female on Same Plant

Size of Fruit: Smaller than a Quarter

Fruit Fleshiness: Dry

Shape of Fruit: Spherical

Color of Fruit at Maturity: Brown or Dry

Fruit Desirable to Birds or Squirrels: No

Common Name(s): Snap dragons

Louisville Plants That Are Most Easily Confused With This One: delphinium, foxglove, lupine

Unique Morphological Features of Plant: Various colors in many shades, the way the flower looks like a dragon opening its mouth when squeezed

Poisonous: All of Plant

Pestiness (weedy, hard to control): No

Page prepared by:

Rod Nilest

November 2004

More Information About Antirrhinum

The genus Antirrhinum is ubiquitous in American gardens. The annual snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) is a Mediterranean native cool-season favorite in the US which produces tall spikes of colorful flowers in spring that attract butterflies. Over hundreds of years, breeders have greatly improved Antirrhinum majus and almost every color of the rainbow is available in a variety of sizes. Because of our humidity, the Southeast US is no place for a typical snapdragon during the summer. Luckily, the genus Antirrhinum has 35 or so other species from Europe, North Africa, and the Western United States, and a few of them are remarkably humidity-tolerant, long-flowering perennials.

In addition to being great perennial flowering plants, antirrhinum species are widely used in science. Antirrhinum majus is a model organism for plant scientists, like a white lab mouse or a fruit fly is to animal scientists. Antirrhinum has been intensely studied, its genetic code mapped, and its patterns of flower color inheritance (remember Gregor Mendel?) are a perfect example of incomplete dominance. When you’re ready to buy antirrhinum to incompletely dominate your perennial garden, we hope you’ll check out our online list of antirrhinum (snapdragons) for sale.

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