Summer snapdragons are some of my favorite summer flowers.
I am always looking for something that will give me height in my desert potted gardens and that will last. Summer snaps, or Angelonia angustifolia, do just that. In the photo above, summer snaps are planted with white profusion zinnias and trailing scaevola. They are rapidly trying to take over a “silver king” euonymus shrub which will take the shade they provide just fine.
Summer snapdragons (not related to the common snapdragon) have appeared in desert nurseries over the last few years. The flowers are relatively small, but once they take off in the mid- to late-summer, the masses of flower spikes gather to give wonderful supporting color to the other flowers in your pot. Topping out at 20 to 24 inches tall, these plants wave their cool colors above all others and seem to love the early fall breezes.
Summer snaps come in white, purple, lavender and pink. You will most often find purple and white in big-box nurseries, and a larger array of colors in your local nurseries. You will not find them in hot colors like reds, oranges or yellow; instead, they add a cooling element to your garden.
These plants are actually perennials, so in our warmer desert areas, you will be able to leave them planted and have them come back easily in the early spring. When they begin to look leggy or spindly, cut them back to just above the soil line, and plant your winter flowers around them.
Planted in six hours of sun, summer snaps need to stay well-watered during the growing season and need an application of a water-soluble fertilizer every other week. If they slow down their flower production, cut your fertilizing back to every three weeks, and be sure they are not getting over-watered. If they start sprawling mid-summer, cut them back by about half.
Summer snaps really do not need deadheading, so they are an easy plant to grow. You can add them to a pot anytime during the summer (yes, even in mid-September), so if you have not planted any yet, and you have a bare spot in the back or center of a pot, see if your nursery has some—and pop one in! Try to choose a cloudy day, or plant it in the late afternoon when the temperatures start dropping for the evening.
Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the desert’s potted garden expert. Marylee is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Potted Desert at facebook.com/potteddesert.