Everyone deserves the childhood memory of pinching a bright red snapdragon's cheeks and watching the magical jaws open to reveal the soft, orangey pink throat. Keep gently squeezing and you can imagine an entire conversation with this gentle giant of the flower world. And the most surprising thing about this fantastical flower of lore is that he'll talk you through the cold, gray days of winter.
The mild Florida winters allow for some green--several bushes and grasses survive our occasional frosts and freezes. But drab winter green just doesn’t cut it when your breath is crackling in the frosty morning air, or when you arrive home after a day's work with the dreary gray falling outside your office window. What your soul needs is color--and I don't mean a washed out, cold-blooded pastel. I mean a red hot crimson, coral, royal purple, or canary yellow. What your soul needs are snapdragons.
This sizzling burst of color is an easy, affordable way to color your winter. Along with regular watering, the key ingredient is sun. The instructions will say "full" sun--I have, however, successfully grown snapdragons in "lots of" sun (unlike their winter friends, pansies, which will not tolerate any shade whatsoever). Our sun is quite low in the winter, so investigate whether the sun actually reaches your house wall (it won't if your house faces north, for instance--you'll have to scoot your snapdragons out away from the house a tad in order the catch the sun come mid-day).
Snapdragons will command center stage. They are meant for eyes to devour them daily, so the ideal spot will be near the front door, the driveway, or outside a favorite window. Decide what size you will want, and ask before you purchase since tags aren't always clear. Giant snapdragons, such as the spectacular Rocket, will reach 3 feet tall and may need some gentle staking to keep from falling over with weight. Many other snapdragons, however, will top out at only 6 inches. All of these gorgeous fire sticks are frost proof and often freeze proof; the flowers, themselves, are more tender, however, so I have a couple of stakes on hand so I can prop a sheet or towel over them when temperatures occasionally dip into the low 30s. Since this small burst of blooms is the extent of my winter gardening, I don't mind the "just to be safe" effort so that I can enjoy these flowers nonstop throughout the winter.
Before you shop, think about creating simple, charming interest with height. Snapdragons grow well in the ground, but also in a large pot--a dense, solid color display of shorter snap dragons reaching up from a large pot flanked by multi-colored giants makes a stunning splash of color to come home to or to welcome guests.
Excluding the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have yet to discover anything that can make such an impact in 2 square feet, for 10 dollars, and with 15-minute's effort. I hope these charming little dragons can breathe their warmth on your family's winters as they have mine.