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February 7th 2014

FLOWER FOCUS: Snapdragons

Written by
Floret

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Over the past few years, snapdragons have rapidly become one of our most profitable early summer crops. Last season we grew around six thousand plants and sold every useable stem in the patch. I have even more penciled into the plan going forward.

Not only are snapdragons beautiful and highly productive, but they’re actually fragrant too!

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To have the longest bloom window possible you’ll need to select varieties from each of the four flowering groups. Group 1 being the earliest and Group 4 the latest. Most are only available from trade sources such as Gloeckner, Ivy Garth Seeds and Geo Seeds. If you look, they’ll be listed under greenhouse/forcing types but don’t be fooled, they can be successfully grown in the field as well. Home gardener’s can find the Chantilly’s from Renee’s Garden Seed and the Animations and Rockets from Johnny’s Select Seeds.

Seeds are generally started between late January-mid February. They’re tiny little buggers so get sown in 288 cell trays. Plants are placed into the field by early April, roughly three weeks before our last first date. This year we’re pushing it even earlier and will try and have them in by mid-late March.

Our plants are spaced 9×9” apart, with five rows per bed. They are grown in preburned landscape fabric covered beds that are heavily amended with compost and a good organic fertilizer prior to planting. Once they get about six inches tall, we add a layer of tenax netting to keep heavy stems from toppling over in the spring rains.

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When harvested with just the bottom 3-5 flowers open, cut snaps will persist for an amazing amount of time. I generally expect a week from them but often get nearly two. Be sure to store cut stems as perfectly upright as possible since they will bend and curve otherwise.

Here in WA we are plagued by the western flower thrips and since our farm is managed organically there isn’t a real solution to the issue. After a few seasons of fretting about the millions of tiny dark specks crawling all over the blooms (they love snaps) I just stopped growing white, yellow and soft pink varieties. The thrips don’t damage the snapdragon flowers like they do with Roses or Lisianthus but on the light colored blooms they really stand out and attract attention. By sticking with the deeper, more saturated tones the thrips are nearly invisible even up close.

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We’ve grown just about every variety available and here are my favorites:

Chantilly’s (group 1-2): This gorgeous group of ruffled butterfly type blooms is one of our most requested and loved crops of the summer! Our customers actually jump up and down clapping when the first bunches are delivered. I have grown all ten of the colors available but over time have whittled my selection down to the best selling four: pink (it’s actually coral), light pink, bronze, light salmon. Creamy yellow, yellow and white are all stunning but show insect damage a bit too much. Deep orange, a pretty tomato soup colored flower consistently under performs the other varieties by half, has much shorter stems and is an off color that early in the season. Purple and velvet are gorgeous but again, a bit too bright. I often combine stems from the favorite four into one bunch and they look like bundles of sherbet. This combo is to die for!

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Animation (group 2): The first traditional snaps to flower in the patch, this group exhibits tall strong stems and always produces an abundant crop. My three favorite colors are deep orange, rose and white. I have also grown royal purple and red but the colors are a bit too strong that early in the summer.

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Overture (group 2) I just adore this collection! Each plant produces masses of thick stemmed, richly colored blooms. While all are beautiful I consistently grow light bronze and rose since they are the top selling colors and go great in our mixed bouquets.

Opus (group 3-4) Almost identical to the Overture series, these productive beauties offer a later bloom and masses of large, brilliant flowers. I adore: early bronze, rose, bright red and red. If thrips aren’t an issue apple blossom (pictured above) and plum blossom are both seriously worth considering. Their bicolor blooms are gorgeous and very unique!

Rocket (group 4) The old standard for field grown snaps, this rainbow colored group, while considerably shorter than the others mentioned, still makes a great field crop. We generally just grow the mix.

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**If you need a few more drool worthy photos to get you inspired to grow snaps, visit the Bathtub Gardens blog for a real treat!**

41 Comments

  1. Rebecca on

    Any advice on how to price Chantilly snaps when selling to local florists?

    Reply
  2. Macey davis on

    After I cut my rocket snapdragons will they reproduce new blooms?

    Reply
  3. Carly on

    Are the hoops there to support the netting or do you place something over the hoops??? Thank you!!

    Reply
  4. Talita Flinspach on

    Dear Floret

    Thank you for the very insightful blog. Just out of curiosity, does each plant only produce one stem or do they have multiple flowering stems per plant?

    Reply
    • Team Floret on

      Hi Talita,
      If you pinch snapdragons, they’ll produce large plants with multiple stems. I hope this helps!

  5. Heidi on

    Dear Fabulous Floret,
    Last year, I’d finally had it with the baling twine we were using as plant support on our small peony farm and I ripped it all out! This year we’ll try the tenax, but I’m curious as to the grade I should get? Which has worked best for you? Thank you for your regular inspiration! We still have a foot of snow covering our babies, but Spring has finally begun here in Alaska and until I can get my fingers in the dirt, I pour over your blog and site dreaming of what’s to come!

    Reply
  6. Linda on

    Do you have thoughts on which are the most fragrant?

    Reply
    • Team Floret on

      I think that the Madame Butterfly and Chantilly varieties have the most fragrance.

  7. Farah on

    Same question here! Do you keep them in the 200 cell trays until they’re ready for the field or do you transplant them into larger pots to grow on? Many thanks for your wonderful blog and inspiration. I’m literally spending every minute I have of spare time reading and re-reading every word you have written

    Reply
  8. Amy on

    Hi Erin! Do you plant up the snapdragons into larger cell trays or do they go directly from the 288 cell trays to the field?

    Reply
  9. Susanna on

    Do you not worry about spreading thrips around the countryside when the flowers are sold? How do stores deal with them in the flowers? I could see that being an issue for customers. Have you ever added predators to the garden?

    Reply
  10. Lauren on

    So helpful! Thank you!

    Reply
  11. Linda Q on

    Do you use the 3 or 4 foot wide tenax netting with the hoops?

    Reply
  12. Linda Q on

    Where do you get the metal hoops? Johnny’s Seeds does have the bender tool for 4′ wide but I can’t find anything for 3′ wide beds.

    Reply
    • Floret on

      We use the 4′ wide bender from Johnny’s and buy 10′ lengths of EMT pipe from the hardware store to make the hoops.

  13. Paula Carli on

    Erin: I am using the Tenax netting but just read the info about the metal hoops holding it. I have looked for sources but can’t seem to find them. What are those metal hoops called and where can I purchase them? Much easier than T-posts, these I can do myself instead of asking husband to put them in for me. Appreciate the information.

    Reply
  14. Michelle D on

    Erin, when do your snaps bloom when you put out in april and when are they done, if you pull them do you have another crop you put in that space or are you just done for the season with that space? Thanks fir all the great information.

    Reply
    • Floret on

      An April planting usually gives up a late June- early July bloom time. After they flower and get yanked we follow them with something quick like direct seeded Pro Cut Sunflowers (60 days to bloom) or cress (great seeded filler that is ready in 50-60 days).

  15. VillageRat on

    I am pretty new to the blog so please excuse if you offered this info in the past, although I have read many of the older posts….when putting the tenax netting over the plants to hold the blooms, how are you holding it up?

    Is it staked at a certain height and held taunt?

    You are spurring me to take my many years love of flowers to the next level!

    Reply
    • Floret on

      So happy you’re jumping in head first!!!

      If you click here on Bathtub Gardens you can see those metal hoops are snuggly holding up the tenax netting. We will be using this method this year. In past seasons we’ve used t-posts and thick bamboo canes. Watch this little video to see it in action!

  16. kristin burrello on

    hi erin!
    do you seed/plant out all varieties at the same time or stagger them?

    Reply
    • Floret on

      They’re seeded and planted at the same time but bloom in successive waves : )

  17. Katie on

    I love snaps! Thank you so much for sharing your information and the pictures are awesome. Do you plant all the groups at the same time or do you spread them out a bit? We will be growing a ton of snaps this year.

    Reply
  18. Zoe on

    Erin, I’ve been following your blog for some time and this helpful post has inspired me to finally add to the fan mail. You’re clearly a great farmer and your bouquets are absolutely stunning, but it is for your generosity that I admire you most. Thank you for sharing your knowledge! I know I am among many who consider you a mentor.

    Quick Snapdragon question — I grew Animation White last year and they out produced any other snap I’ve seen, but just look at ’em wrong and they’d break (oh snap!). Is this a varietal characteristic or are there other factors that determine their snappiness?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Floret on

      You know, my regular snaps (not Chantilly’s) are super brittle too. I have no idea what to do for them : (

    • Kim on

      The snaps I’ve grown seem to have the stockiest stems when they’ve had time to grow in cooler weather. Plants that had sturdy stems for their first cutting in spring have then grown skinnier second flush stems during the more intense summer heat. Last year, a planting I put in during a hot stretch in summer had fairly weak stems for their first cutting, but as the season cooled down, they grew thicker stems.

  19. Evee M on

    I bought some seeds for a Chantilly mix from Osbourne Seeds and I am excited to try them. I have been seeing pictures of these open faced snapdragons all over and I really love their look compared to the traditional snapdragons.

    Reply
  20. Hannah Mazzoli on

    You mentioned planting the snaps out three weeks before your last frost date, how do you protect them from the frost? Thanks!

    Reply
  21. Bethany Karn on

    what a great post. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the butterfly variety before – what a stunner!
    I just found a local green house grower and I am AMAZED at how much prettier and longer lasting his Snaps are than the conventional kind. I just threw out cut stems that were 4 weeks old and honestly, they still didn’t look bad – I was just tired of them ;-D So yet again, Vive Locale!

    Reply
  22. Georgianna on

    Seeing these images again just melts my heart once more. So much magic here!! Can’t wait for the season to begin!!

    Reply
  23. Michelle D on

    Love- love your blog I read and re-read the posts. Loving the new series you are doing this year and placing orders. Photos are my joy to see longing for spring in Buffalo ny. How many stems per plant? Germination rate? Fertilizer? And do you get a 2nd fall cut out if these? Thank you thank you so very much for sharing. :)

    Reply
    • Floret on

      I added more details above. Germ rate is usually great on snaps. We pull plants after flowering but if you have the space, I’m sure they’d rebloom later.

  24. Beth S on

    Thank you so much for all of your tutorials this spring! I am interested in adding cut flowers to a small market vegetable farm, and these have been so, so helpful–especially since we have pretty limited ground to work with and I’m a total newbie. Sending you best wishes for an abundant and beautiful season!

    Reply
  25. Angela Humphrey on

    How and when do you start them? Seed or plugs? I’m at zone 5 in Colorado.

    Thanks for sharing as always xo

    Reply
  26. Jennifer Bingham on

    Hi Erin, I am completely addicted to your beautiful blog. This is my first year as a cut flower farmer ( in addition to the sheep/goats, u-pick berry farm, and plant nursery we put together last year), I have learned soooooo much from your blog and admire your tremendous creativity, ambition, and work ethic. You rock! I have a question about the snapdragons : Pinch or not? And when and how? Because you said how much you loved them last Fall I sourced out a thousand Chantilly’s to try and will be field growing them as well as the Rockets. I live in Oklahoma and have no idea if thrips are a problem here or not. Thank you for all of your hard work! Your blog is my weekly inspiration!

    Reply
    • Floret on

      You know, I haven’t ever pinched though I’ve intended to every spring! With so many plants it always seems too daunting.

      If you do pinch it’s when there are 5-7 leaf pairs present. You will need to space your plants a little farther apart, either 9×12″ or 12×12″ since they will be more bulky.

    • Katie on

      Hey Jennifer, last year I grew Chantillys and pinched about 1/2 of them. I’m so glad I did, it helped to extend the harvest window and the size of the stems on the pinched plants was almost the same as those on the unpinched. I have heard that they will rebloom in late summer, I didn’t have the space to experiment with that but if you do it might be fun to try. You won’t be disappointed with the chantillys they are astounding! Good luck!

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