By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Because snapdragons naturally thrive in cold conditions, it is possible to overwinter them in certain climates. If you live in a milder region, the whole plant may overwinter if you cover it with a substantial amount of mulch.
Overwintering can be handy if you don't want to plant new flowers or seeds next season. Dry conditions are also helpful if you want to overwinter snapdragons outdoors.
Sometimes, snapdragons will overwinter on their own if they are planted in a protected area. Again, this only works in milder regions that have warmer winters. This method seems to work especially well if you let the flowers seed late in the season.
Another method if you live in a very cold climate, is to plant the snapdragons in containers and keep them in an unheated area against the wall of your house. Place the plants under lights during the winter and control the humidity.
Although snapdragons are considered annuals, overwintering can help them survive into the next season. This may save you money on replanting while also making your life easier.
Chrysanthemums thrive in the North Texas autumn weather. Colloquially called mums, the flowers come in two varieties: flattened or elongated with ray florets, or short and tufted with a rounded head. They are perennials and, with proper care, will last for several years. They perform best in full sun and can thrive in rock gardens and as low borders. Mums are vulnerable to aphids, thrips and root diseases. Early detection of root disease is imperative: if too much time has passed before treatment, you may lose the plant.
I garden in zone 5 and would like to know how I can bring an outside snapdragon plant inside for the winter so I can replant it outside in the spring.
Snapdragons are truly a short lived perennial that is usually grown as an annual, especially in colder climates. In mild winters or when grown in a sheltered location a plant or two may survive the winter. If you feel lucky you may want to mulch the plant after the soil freezes. Cover the plant with evergreen boughs or straw. Or you could try growing it indoors like geraniums, impatiens, and other annuals. You could try one or both of these methods. Take a few 4-inch cuttings, stick them in vermiculite to root, then plant the rooted cutting in a well-drained potting mix. Or dig up the plant, pot it up and grow it indoors. Either way, place the plants in a cool sunny location or under artificial lights. Water thoroughly whenever the soil just starts to dry.
Snapdragons bloom in a variety of colors, offering a varied bouquet for the fall and winter garden. National Garden Bureau
With cooler temperatures, a little rain and shorter days, it's time to think about planting annuals, such as snapdragons and stocks, to brighten up the landscape in winter and spring.
Snapdragons are available in several sizes. Rockets, which grow to 3 feet tall on good sites, are my favorites. They bloom in red, pink, white, yellow and orange. The tall flower spices are showy from a distance, and they last well in a vase.
All snapdragons need full sun. For best results, Rockets should be planted against a taller background or in rows where they support each other in wind.
Rockets do well in large containers on patios. Grow in 3- or 5-gallon containers and use aluminum tomato cages to support the tall plants.
Other selections of snapdragons grow about 15 inches tall. Use them in containers or rows in the flower garden. The shortest snapdragon variety grows to 6 inches tall and makes an attractive low border for flower beds. The shorter selections also do well in containers.
This week in the garden
Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage transplants are available in nurseries for planting now.
For herbs this winter, consider parsley, cilantro, dill, fennel, thyme, savory and chives.
Control cabbage loopers on cole crops with a Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, product such as Thuricide, Dipel or Bio-Worm Control.
Keep tomatoes and cole crops well fertilized with 1 cup of slow-release or winterizer lawn fertilizer spread over each 8 feet of row every three weeks.
Like snapdragons, stocks bloom in tall spikes of flowers. The blooms in pink, white, lavender and fuchsia are not as intense as snapdragons, but they have a wonderful fragrance.
Use stocks for cut flowers. I prefer the largest selection, about 15 inches tall. Because stocks are not as widely available in nurseries as snapdragons, you might have to use whatever variety you find.
BY Kevin Lee Jacobs | February 11, 2015 66 Comments
This week, I received the following email from reader Brick:
Kevin, you’re extremely good looking. Are you single? My phone number is 212-xxx-xxxx. Also, when you winter-sow seeds, do the roots get entangled in their gallon-size milk or water containers? If so, how do you separate and transplant the seedlings?
Well, Brick, let me answer your most important questions.
The roots of winter-sown seedlings do eventually become entangled, and even root-bound. But these seedlings, which were born outdoors, are tougher than you might imagine. They are also itching to grow! No harm will come to the plants if you sever their roots at transplanting time.
Here are a couple of ways to separate and transplant the seedlings:
First, let’s look at some Brussels sprouts seedlings I winter-sowed one year. To remove these 5 tall youngsters from their milk jug quarters, I simply held one hand against the soil, and then inverted the jug.
I quickly inverted the clump again, so that the seedlings were standing in an upright position.
Then I pried the seedlings apart…
And planted them individually in a raised bed.
Later that season, the Brussels sprouts greeted me with…of all things…Brussels sprouts.
Here’s another way to remove seedlings from a milk jug: Cut off the front side of the “greenhouse”…
…And slide the seedlings out, all in one clump.
Then break the young plants apart, as described earlier. And don’t worry — you will not harm the plants! Remember, these babies were not coddled indoors under “grow” lights. They were born outside, and subjected to snow, ice, sleet, and driving rain. They are tough as nails.
And what about extremely crowded seedlings, such as the creeping thyme pictured above?
Here again, just cut off the front of the jug, and give the clump a shove.
Then slice the seedlings lengthwise and crosswise, as if you were dealing with a pan of My Very Serious Brownies. Plant the little squares, and then thin them out as they grow.
In all my years of transplanting winter-sown seedlings, I don’t think I’ve lost a single plant. So be brutal when you separate the seedlings. They can take it.
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Snapdragons thrive in chilly weather, making them a good choice as a winter flower in North Texas. According to Jimmy Turner of the Dallas Arboretum, flowers grown during the winter will "bulk up and produce many more flower stems and bloom longer than those planted in early spring." They can survive a hard freeze as long as they don't dry out during the cold. Neil Sperry advises planting snapdragons 12 inches apart, starting from nursery transplants.