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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.