Annual Vs. Perennial Snapdragon Plants: How Long Do Snapdragons Live

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By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Whether trailing out of hanging baskets or urns, lowly bordering a flower garden, or growing in masses of tall spires, snapdragons can add pops of long-lasting color in any garden. Snapdragons are specifically a common addition to cottage gardens. With folk names like lion’s mouth or calf’s snout, snapdragons are also a favorite in children’s gardens, because snapping the dragon’s mouth open and closed by squeezing the sides of the flowers is a fond childhood memory that has been passed down throughout generations. Snapdragons are also very easy to grow from seed and produce full size plants loaded with blooms in just one season.

Are Snapdragons Annuals or Perennials?

The most common question about snapdragons is: are snapdragons annual or perennial? The answer is that they can be both. Some varieties of snapdragons are true annuals, meaning they grow, flower, set seed and die all within one growing season. Other varieties of snapdragons are considered to be short-lived perennials, hardy in zones 7-11, which are usually grown as annuals.

A few varieties of snapdragons are even known to withstand winter temperatures in zones 5 and 6. In many areas, snapdragon seeds will survive low winter temperatures, and new plants will grow from these seeds in spring, making the plant seem as if it came back like a perennial.

Annual and perennial snapdragons do not have many differences. Either may grow from 6-36 inches (15-91 cm.) tall, both bloom for long periods, both come in varieties with classic snapdragon flowers or azalea-like blooms, and both grow easily from seed unless they are hybrids.

Because of their short-lived nature, perennial snapdragons tend to be grown as annuals and are replanted every year. Nurseries may make the matter even more confusing by labeling snapdragons as “half hardy annuals” or “tender perennials.” How long do snapdragons live as a perennial? This all depends on the variety and location, but generally short lived perennials live about an average of three years.

Annual vs. Perennial Snapdragon Planting

Many gardeners find that it is more reliable to plant snapdragons annually. This way they know they will have long blooming snapdragons each year; if perennial varieties come back or last year’s seeds sprout, it’s just more blooms to enjoy. Snapdragons are considered cool season plants. While cold temperatures cause dieback, extreme heat can also kill them.

In northern climates, snapdragon seeds or plants are planted in spring after the danger of frost has passed. In southern climates, zone 9 or above, snapdragons are oftentimes planted in autumn to provide colorful blooms throughout the winter. Perennial snapdragons generally do best in zones 7-9.

  • Spanish snapdragons are known to be hardy in zones 5-8.
  • The short-lived perennial variety Eternal, hardy in zones 7-10, has colorful, long blooming, flowers and green and white variegated foliage.
  • The Snap Daddy and Autumn Dragons series are also well-known perennial varieties of snapdragon.

For reliable, long blooming annual snapdragons, try the Rocket, Sonnet, or Liberty series. Other common annual snapdragons include Plum Blossom, Candy Showers and the Solstice Mix. Hybrids like Bright Butterflies or Madame Butterfly are annuals with azalea-like blooms.

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