Linaria purple flowers

A small family of bushy upright annuals that produce terminal spikes of small snapdragon like flowers, in a variety of colours. The genus also includes biennials and short lived perennials, many of which can be found growing as wildflowers in the UK.

Family: Plantaginaceae (Figwort family)
Botanical Name: Linaria
Common Names: Annual toadflax

Foliage: Deciduous, narrow, linear grey-green leaves.

Flowers: Terminal racemes of small dual-lipped and spurred flowers (similar to snapdragons). In shades of yellow, red, pink, purple or mauve, often with white throats.

Flowering Period: May to October.

Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil. Any pH.

Conditions: Best in full sun, in a south facing aspect.

Habit: Narrow, upright.

Type: Hardy Annual.

Origin: Southern Europe.

Hardiness: Hardy throughout the UK.

Planting and Growing Linaria

Thrives in a moderately fertile, well-drained sandy soil. Dislikes heavy clay. Full sun is essential for the best flowers.

A typical cottage garden style plant, suitable for raised beds, dry walls and mixed beds. Low growing forms are ideal for the rock garden.

Taking Care of Linaria


Trim plants back after flowering to prevent self-seeding. This may also induce a second flush of flowers.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by aphids. Can be affected by powdery mildews.

Propagating Linaria

Linaria does not transplant well, so sow the seed thinly in prepared ground in March or April where they are to flower. Do not cover the tiny seeds with soil or they may not germinate. Thinning should not be necessary if the seed is sown sparsely.

Sow at regular intervals (every few weeks or so) to extend the flowering period.

Once established they should self seed freely for the next season.

Increase perennials by division or take softwood cuttings in spring.

Popular Varieties of Linaria

You will rarely find toadflax for sale in the garden centre but you may find it self-seeded in your garden or see it growing wild on wasteland or along roadsides. Particularly L. purpurea, which is the most popular garden species.

Linaria alpina a low growing species suitable for the rock garden, providing clusters of violet/orange flowers. Height to 6in (15cm).

Linaria maroccana (Moroccan toadflax) a medium height form with attractive grey-green foliage and colourful small snap-dragon like flowers. Height up to 2ft (60cm). Interesting cultivars include 'Fairy Bouquet', a compact form in range of colours. Height to 9in (23cm). Also 'Northern Lights', with flowers in shades of bronze, red, purple, pink, yellow and cream. Often bicoloured.

Linaria purpurea (purple toadflax) a vigorous perennial with erect stems of grey-green leaves, ending with racemes of purple flowers. Popular cultivars include 'Springside White', an attractive form with white flowers. Height to 18in (45cm). Also 'Cannon J Went' with pretty pink flowers. Height to 2ft (60cm). For sale at Van Meuwen.

Linaria reticulata is a dwarf form with larger flowers. Height to 1ft (30cm). Popular cultivars include 'Crimson and Gold' a very striking form with pretty red and yellow flowers.

Linaria vulgaris (bread and butter) is the common species with yellow and cream flowers. Highly invasive.