Snapdragon: maintenance and cultivation tips
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) is a herbaceous plant native to Mediterranean countries, (North Africa and Southern Europe), widely used as a border, in the construction of hedges, or as coverage for rocky areas. This plant is able to endure temperatures of a few degrees below zero, but usually it’s cultivated as a yearly plant, it requires a few tricks to develop quickly and it has a fairly short span of life. It’s an ideal plant for novice gardening enthusiasts.
Snapdragon can reach a height of about 1,20 meters and its stem is fleshy and lignified at the base, the leaves are dark green and spear shaped, and its flowers are very fragrant.
The peculiarity that distinguishes this plant is its flower, in the shape of a mouth with lips that open if pressed with two fingers on the sides and reminiscent of a lion’s mouth. From this similarity derives the (Italian) name of the plant.
The colors of Snapdragon
This characteristic flower can be found in a myriad of colors from white to yellow, pink, red and with many intermediate shades.
Flowers, once dried, give way to rather woody pods containing fertile seeds. To have a greater flowering it’s suggested to cut the withered flower stems, in order to create space for the regrowth of others. Topping is also suggested, for a more compact growth.
Its botanical name derives from Greek which when translated means “like a snout”.
There are various species of these peculiar flowers: overall forty but the most popular and widespread is Antirrhinum maius, that sprouts starting from the month of June, until the arrival of winter temperatures.
To achieve a good results in the sowing and the respective growth, two details must be kept in mind: the full sun exposure, that allows excellent flowering, and a temperature never too low, as the plant does not like rigid climates very much.
The watering in the summer months must be regular, but not too abundant: to avoid stagnant water that might be fatal for the plant, wait for the soil to dry before re-watering.
As for the soil, snapdragon prefers calcareous and light composition, therefore avoid acid soils. As for its maintenance, said plant needs fertilizing every two weeks, starting from the beginning of spring, until the end of summer, by adding a good fertilizer to water. Snapdragon is not pruned: you only need to cut leaves and flowers that have dried over time, in order to avoid parasitic diseases.
Snapdragon: history and tradition
Tradition considers it as the flower of indifference and of whim: in medieval times this flower was used by girls as a sign of rejection to the courtship by unwanted boys, by braiding it in their hair.
Snapdragon is also known as “witch grass”, “flower of whim” and “linen of the walls”: it’s a perennial herbaceous plant, native to North Africa and southern Europe. In addition to its beauty, it also has the peculiarity of being a medicinal plant for therapeutic use. In fact, once leaves and flowers are dried, infuses able to alleviate sunburns, erythema and ulcerations can be created.
A very similar species to Antirrhinum maius is Antirrhinum latifolium, called yellow snapdragon, which can be found in small areas of Liguria, Piedmont and Tuscany. They are subject to attacks of fungal disease, the most dangerous of which is the so-called "snapdragon mold" or Peronospera antirrhini. This mold attacks small plants, by stopping their growth and making the leaves grow deformed and curled, covered by a greyish patina.