Photo: Snapdragons in container

October Gardening Tips
October is typically Tennessee’s driest month. To be sure your garden doesn’t get too dry, here are some fall gardening tips from the Institute of Agriculture . >>>read the article

UT Gardens' Plant of the Month: Snapdragons

by Dr. Susan Hamilton

Snapdragons, with their two-lipped flowers, have delighted children for generations. Pinching the blossom makes the dragon's mouth open, or "snap."

Antirrhinum majus or Common Snapdragon is a tender perennial usually grown as a cool-weather annual. It is popular among gardeners for its assorted colors and heights, which allow it to have a variety of uses. Tall cultivars are popular as cut flowers or as a tall background in a border. Short cultivars are great for mass planting and edging or for use in pots and containers. Cultivars are available in three height categories: tall, from 2 to 3 feet; semi-dwarf, from 1 to 2 feet; and dwarf, from 8 to 12 inches.

Snapdragons are available in almost every color except true blue. Flowers can be a solid color or bicolor and can be one of two types: the common tubular shape and a double azalea type. The brightly colored blossoms of snapdragons can be used to dye cloth. Snapdragons belong to the Scrophulariaceae, or figwort, family and are native to the Mediterranean region. Another popular relative in this family is foxglove or digitalis. The name Antirrhinum comes from the Greek. "Anti" means "like," and "rhinos" means "nose," referring to the snout-like shape of the flowers.

Snapdragons are not crazy about our southern summer heat. They perform best when temperatures are cooler, especially around 50 degrees. In the South, snapdragons are best when planted in the fall where they can thrive and provide color in the garden from winter to spring. I use snapdragons throughout my perennial border where they enliven the garden with their vibrant colors during dreary winters. Then, if they fizzle in the summer due to heat stress, they can go unnoticed. I also enjoy snapdragons combined with pansies and violas in containers in the fall. Flowering can be improved by deadheading spent blooms. Although temperature is critical to performance, snapdragons perform best when planted in full sun to partial shade and in light, sandy, well-drained soil.

Snapdragons are sensitive to damping-off and other root diseases, so well-drained soil is imperative. Leaf rust is common on snapdragons during times of heavy condensation as with dew or frequent rainfall. If you suspect a disease or insect problem, contact your county's Agricultural Extension agent for advice.

I have evaluated a myriad of the numerous cultivars are on the market in the test gardens at the University of Tennessee. I have found many to perform well in our Tennessee climate. Dwarf cultivars include the "Floral Showers" series, "Floral Carpet Mix," "Montego" series, "Chimes" series, "Bells" series and "Tahiti" series. Semi-dwarf cultivars include the "Sonnet" series, "Liberty" series, "Ribbon" series and "La Bella" series. Tall cultivars include the "Rocket" series.

Visit the UT Gardens in Knoxville this winter and spring to see more than 25 different and new cultivars of snapdragons being evaluated for their cool-season show and performance. Visit for more information on these cultivars.

# # #

Dr. Susan Hamilton is an associate professor of ornamental horticulture in the University of Tennessee Department of Plant Sciences and director of the UT Gardens. The UT Gardens are located on Neyland Drive in Knoxville. They are open seven days a week during daylight hours. Various selections of witch hazel are currently in bloom, and if temperatures warm, the pansies and violas should put on a colorful show.


The University of Tennessee | Institute of Agriculture | 2621 Morgan Circle | Knoxville, TN 37996-4505 | Phone: (865) 974-7342 | Fax: (865) 974-8781 | Send questions and comments about this page to the Webmaster: