Snapdragons have come a long way since the plant's early days of few cultivars and one basic type of flower. Selective breeding gives the home gardener a choice of about 40 species of hardy annuals, perennials, tall snapdragons, dwarf snapdragons and snapdragons that have no snap. Although many gardeners grow snapdragons as annuals, replacing the plants each spring, some snapdragons are reliably winter hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11 and, with care, may overwinter in the warmer areas of Zone 8.
Types of Snapdragons
Snapdragons take three basic forms: the classic dragon-shaped flower, the butterfly and the double azalea flower. The dragon flower has "jaws" that can be opened by hand and will "snap" shut when released. The butterfly flower does not snap. The jaws are fused open, which makes the flowers resemble butterfly wings. Double azalea snapdragons have butterfly flowers with extra petals.
Snapdragon varieties come in four basic heights: tall snapdragons grow to about 3 feet tall; intermediate or medium snapdragons get 1 to 2 feet tall; bedding varieties range from 6 to 15 inches tall; and the smallest snapdragons, rock garden hybrids, grow only 6 inches tall. Choose flowers that complement your snapdragons' height. Taller plants with blooms that serve as a background for the snapdragons, such as many rose varieties, add color and form as well as height to the snapdragon bed. Plant lobelia, pansies or another bedding flower at the feet of your snapdragons to fill the area between the ground and the snapdragon blooms with color. Try planting Liberty Yellow snapdragons, violas and delicate white baby's breath.
It makes sense to plant other flowers with similar soil requirements as snapdragons, since they'll be sleeping in the same bed. Luckily for the home gardener, snapdragons can grow in soil that ranges from acidic to slightly alkaline and composed of clay, sand or loam. Try mixing several varieties of snapdragons together in a mass planting using some of each height and planting several different colors for an artist's palette of colors. Plant a clematis vine in the background for added interest, and a colorful purple vinca in the foreground for drama.
Pick companion plants that need the same amount of moisture to thrive. Dusty miller, periwinkle, snow-in-summer and geraniums are small plants that have similar moisture requirements and drought tolerance as snapdragons. Try blue fescue as a wavy, grassy base for your snapdragons to rise above. The slender leaves of grass form an interesting contrast to the thick stems of the snapdragon flowers.
Snapdragons flower in pastel, solid and two-toned primary colors. Use richly colored snapdragons like the 3-foot-tall Rocket Red above a lush planting of silvery dusty miller. Mix Crest Red cosmos with Solstice Yellow and Rocket Red snapdragons for a big splash of intense color. Mix double azalea form snapdragons with star-shaped jasmine or carpet the ground around a Cool Salmon snapdragon with delicate purple Royal Carpet alyssum.