Lion's mouth - Antirrhinum majus

General Mouths of Lion

Perennial herbaceous plant grown as an annual native of the countries bordering the Mediterranean. This plant is rustic in our country, resisting temperatures of a few degrees below zero, but it is usually grown as an annual as it develops quickly but has a short life. The stem is fleshy, lignified at the base, and can reach 100-120 cm in height; the leaves are lanceolate, dark green. The particularity of this plant is undoubtedly in the flowers, partially tubular, with two labelli, which open by pressing the flower on the sides, remembering the mouth of a lion or a dragon, they bloom on long ears; the colors are many, from yellow to red to pink, there are also two-colored and mottled varieties. The flowers give way to woody pods that contain numerous fertile seeds. To have more abundant blooms, remove the stems of withered flowers, it is also advisable to trim the young plants to obtain a more compact growth.

Mouths of lion

The antirrhinum, known by the popular name of "lion's mouth" (or even witch grass, flower of the caprice and linen of the walls) is a perennial herbaceous, but cultivated however mostly as annual or biennial, native of southern Europe and of North Africa.
His nickname is linked to the shape of the flower, formed by a corolla with two lobes, which roll up similarly to the lips
The botanical name, instead, derives from the Greek and means "like a snout" also referring to the shape of the flower.
It is a plant that has always been very common in our gardens and terraces because it adapts easily to different conditions of exposure and soil. If cleaned regularly it is capable of flowering from March until the first frosts, always giving our green spaces grace and liveliness
Its use in the garden is of the most varied. It can be inserted in mixtures of seeds for flowering meadows, or become part of a rocky area or even decorate vases on a terrace or on a balcony.

Lion mouth description

About forty species belong to the genus Antirrhinum, all originating from the Mediterranean basin. At the horticultural level, only the majus species is cultivated in Italy and in Europe, and more rarely, the asarina and glutinosum (the first one is absolutely master).
Since it is a very popular plant, it has been, since the beginning of botany, used to create new varieties and hybrids, characterized mainly by differences in color, growth and size.
Currently we can divide the varieties of snapdragon into large flowers in three broad categories.
The dwarf ones (with a height less than 30 cm), the medium ones (ranging from 30 to 70 cm) and the high ones (which can even reach 120 cm).
It can be classified as a lively, medium-rustic plant. The minimum temperature it can withstand is -5 ° C. For this reason it can be treated as a perennial throughout the Center-South, while in the North it is mostly considered an annual or at most a biennial.
It often tends to lignify at the base and in the lower part it is very branched and bushy. The stem is smooth, rich in leaves. These are lanceolate-oblong, the inferior are opposite, the others alternate. The flowers are numerous surrounded at the point of attachment of small sharp bracts and are arranged in a very dense spike at the beginning and then expanded. The glass is velvety and has 5 small divisions. The corolla is about 5 cm long with a bulging bag-shaped tube at the base. The upper lip in vertical position is divided into two lobes folded backwards.


Dandelion plants need to be grown in full sun in order to get a good flowering; if you want to cultivate as perennials in winter it is advisable to cover them with non-woven fabric, to prevent them from freezing.
The ideal location for these flowers should always be warm and sunny. In any case, they also tolerate the partial shade rather well, especially the varieties selected in recent years and particularly resistant to rust.


Watering must be regular, but not too abundant, in fact these plants prefer drought to excess water, so wait until the soil is dry between one watering and another; in winter leave the plants dry or almost. Supply fertilizer for flowering plants every 20-25 days, dissolved in the water used for watering. The snapdragon plants, in order to remain beautiful and flourish throughout the season, need abundant irrigation. Of course, the more we live in a hot and dry area, the more we will have to intervene. We proceed every time we see the surface of the dry soil, taking care only not to create persistent stagnations and to wet the leaves as little as possible, especially the low ones.
The best time for this job is always in the morning: in this way the water will be absorbed immediately by the plant and the remaining one will evaporate with the arrival of the sun. In the evening, instead, there is the risk of unnecessarily increasing humidity, favoring the advent of cryptogams.
In pots the irrigations must be even more frequent and, especially in summer, practically daily (especially in the southern regions).
During the winter, on the other hand, if we decide to withdraw the plants, it will be advisable to delay the interventions as much as possible, checking only that the substrate does not dry completely.


This plant loves loose, well-drained soils rich in organic matter, even if it grows without problems in any soil; use a good balanced universal soil. It grows well almost everywhere, but marshy or too compact soils should be avoided. For the rest it is very adaptable, even if it particularly prefers those soils characterized by a good quantity of calcium (for example the stony areas or even the walls). In fact these have the important characteristic of heating up quickly when spring arrives, favoring both the development and flowering of this herbaceous plant.
If the acidity is too high we can eventually correct it by absorbing some lime.


It takes place by seed, and is practiced in spring or winter sowing in a warm bed in February-March, or outdoors in April-May; young plants are planted from May onwards. Sometimes the snapdragon plants are self-seeding, spontaneously producing new plants from the seeds of the previous year.
The easiest and fastest way to obtain seedlings is without a doubt the sowing. On the market today you can find sachets with cultivars for all needs, especially at specialized retailers. We choose, if possible, selected varieties to be resistant to rust and of a size suitable for our use.

Pests and diseases

Often the black aphids attack the dandelion specimens completely ruining the ears of flowers; this plant fears particularly fungal diseases and, in presence of water stagnations, the root rot.
The snapdragons they were once very sensitive to rust. The breeders have therefore endeavored to create resistant varieties. Let us therefore rely on specialized nurseries when we buy seedlings or seeds.
However, if it does appear, we can deal with specific fungicides. However, we avoid the shadow and excessive stagnant humidity.
Powdery mildew may also appear, especially in autumn. We also use specific products in this case, we remove the affected parts and avoid wetting the leaves and the stems.
Some problems can also be caused by slugs. We protect the plants with specific granules or through traps with beer.
Other care
To prolong flowering and always keep individuals alive, it is good to devote oneself to removing dead corollas.

When and how to plant the lion's mouths

If we buy the plants at a nursery we can plant them starting in April in the northern regions. In the Center-South, on the other hand, you can also start from the beginning of March, always making sure that persistent frosts do not yet arrive.
We first work the soil well in depth, but avoid incorporating compost or manure. An excessive richness of the substratum makes these plants more fragile and less floriferous.
The distance between the specimens must go from about 10 to 30 cm, according to the final dimensions that they will have to reach (we check on the tag or on the bag of seeds).

Snapdragons in a vase

If we want to grow potted snapdragon plants we will have to create a very draining compost. The ideal is to mix 80% of soil for flowering plants and 20% of coarse sand. Eventually we can also incorporate a handful of agriperlite, to further lighten the whole thing. Clearly it is always important to create a good draining layer on the bottom of the container. In this case the ideal is to prepare it with gravel. Alternatively, glass marbles or expanded clay beads may also work.

Seed snapdragon

When to sow?
If we live in the North and proceeding indoors (in a warm and bright environment) or in a heated greenhouse we can start sowing already in January-February.
In the center or in the south, on the other hand, it is even advisable to sow in September-October. In this way in the spring we will have specimens already fully formed and we will obtain a very early flowering.
Such as?
Canopies or alveolar trays can be used. After filling them with a very light mixture, we will insert the seeds, mixing them in advance with sand so that they do not fall too close to each other. Being rather small it is not recommended to cover them too much. We use very fine sand to the maximum.
We put everything in a bowl with a centimeter of water, gently vaporize the surface and close it with clear plastic. Germination generally takes place within a week and the seedlings, if necessary, can be moved when they reach the third true leaf. It is then necessary to proceed also with various trimmings, in order to stimulate a good tanning and consequently obtain abundant blooms.
Clearly, as the season progresses, you can also begin to sow directly directly, thus obtaining scalar blooms and a garden that is always at its peak.
Furthermore, the snapdragons are self-disseminated with some ease. It is therefore very likely to find plants scattered in the garden from one year to the next. We can, if we want, intervene in time and move them where we wish. However, remember that they will almost certainly be of different colors and sizes than those of their ancestors.

Lion's mouth: Talea snapdragons

It can be practiced when one wants to maintain a beautiful variety, since seed multiplication does not guarantee the maintenance of peculiar qualities.
It is advisable to proceed in September. We take herbaceous jets and insert them in soil mixed with sand, keeping them at a temperature of about 20-25 ° C in a very bright area, until the rooting has taken place. Later, when winter comes, they will move to a room sheltered from frost.
Watch the video
  • Leon's mouth

    The snapdragon is a herbaceous plant with a particular shape; its scientific name is Antirrhinum majus, belongs

    visit: lion's mouth

Antirrhinum majus 'Tom Pouce' various 20 cm Nana
Antirrhinum majus 'Black Prince' Rossi 40 cm Bronze colored foliage
Antirrhinum majus 'Madame Butterfly' various 80 cm Very large and double flowers
Antirrhinum majus 'Grand Loup' various 120 cm Vigorous
Antirrhinum majus 'Majestic' various 30 cm nana
Antirrhinum majus 'Rocket' many 100 cm Very large flowers, even cut flowers
Antirrhinum majus' Magic Carpet many 15 cm Prostrate habit