How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Stock Flowers


If you like fragrance in a garden, stocks should be on your list. They have a wonderful spicy scent with a hint of clove, and in the heat of summer will permeate a space with their beautiful fragrance.

Their distinctive aroma attracts many pollinators, so the whole atmosphere around the plants is one of fragrantly-colored spikes buzzing with bees and butterflies.

In this article, we will go through the steps to growing stocks successfully: sowing the seed, maintenance, cutting them for the vase, or just enjoying them in the garden.

Overview

An alluring close-up showcases a cluster of light purple stock flowers. Their soft, velvety petals, ruffled at the edges, seem to beckon for touch. Hints of yellow peek through unopened buds, promising future blooms.


Species:


Matthiola incana


Native Area


Southern Europe


Height and Spread


10-32 inches, dwarf varieties available


Pests


Aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, flea beetles


Soil Type


Well-draining, rich

What is It?

Stock flowers, or stocks, are pretty annuals. Matthiola incana are members of the Brassica family, Brassicaceae, which includes edible plants like cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and mustards.

It’s not surprising, then, that the flowers, leaves, and seedpods are all edible. There are various other common names for these annuals, including Brompton stock, hoary stock, gillyflower, and common stock.

Native Area

 A captivating light peach stock flower in full bloom. Its delicate petals, bathed in soft morning light, seem to reach for the sun. The blurred background hints at a vast field of these flowers swaying gently in a refreshing breeze.
Stock flowers called Matthiola incana are edible annuals native to the Mediterranean region.

This species is native from Spain to Greece, including France, Italy, Albania, and Yugoslavia and the islands of Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia. It is considered an introduced species in many other parts of the world but prefers a temperate climate and biome.

Characteristics

A stunning close-up captures a light purple stock flower in its prime. Its delicate petals, arranged in a starburst, boast a vibrant hue that contrasts against the soft blur of lush green foliage.
Stock flowers bloom in various colors from late spring to mid-summer.

In their natural environments, stocks are considered shrubs or, more accurately, subshrubs, but they are also available around the world as annuals or biennials. The main blooming season is from late spring to mid-summer.

They grow anywhere from 10-32 inches high. The flower stalks stand proudly above the narrow, oval leaves. The many dwarf varieties make excellent bedding plants, with the taller varieties sought after by florists for use in design.

Flowers can be single or double in colors that range from white, yellow, peach, pink, purple, and various hues from the palest pink to the most vibrant purple. They form spikes of blooms clustered together, and the petals are slightly frilly.

Planting

There are two ways of getting stocks into your garden: sow from seed or plant seedlings already grown for you by a nursery.

They prefer cooler conditions to grow like any plants in the brassica family and, if planted out too late, may have stunted growth.

Growing from Seed

A close-up view of a garden bed teeming with tiny, green stock flower seedlings. Their delicate leaves reach for the sun, contrasting against the dry, brown soil that cradles their new beginnings.
Sow stock flower seeds indoors in trays and harden them off before planting.

Start sowing in January or any time before March to take advantage of the cooler growing conditions.

Sow Indoors

  • Fill your trays or pots with a seedling or germination mix that has been dampened with water.
  • Spread the seeds over the top of the soil and pat down to secure the seeds to the soil. Don’t bury the seeds too deep. They need light to germinate. Keep well-watered while the seeds germinate, and keep the temperature consistent at around 60-65°F (16-18°C).
  • After 10-14 days, the seeds should have germinated, and they can be pricked out and planted into individual pots or biodegradable pots to grow on.
  • Once the seeds have their true leaves and have reached a size of around three to four inches, start the hardening-off process by taking the pots outside from around the beginning of March to get them acclimated to the outdoor conditions. Start by taking the seedlings outside for an hour and then increase this daily. Avoid hardening off in freezing weather. The temperature should be around 32°F (0°C) before you begin. Once you can see that they are a bit tougher, they can be planted out in the garden or in containers.

Direct Sow

  • Prepare the soil by loosening it and raking and removing any stones or large clumps of soil. The soil should be fine and level.
  • Sow the seeds as evenly as possible and press the soil down.
  • Water well with a fine spray.
  • Once the seeds have several leaves and reach three to four inches high, thin them out so that the stronger seedlings are at least 10 inches apart.

Transplanting

Vibrant cluster of pink stock flowers in a garden. The delicate petals boast a soft shade of pink and a slightly ruffled texture, creating a sense of softness and elegance. The flowers are nestled amidst lush green foliage.
Depending on your climate and last frost date, transplant stocks outdoors in early spring.

Transplant seedlings out around mid-March, depending on your climate. If it’s a bit cold, still cover them with hoops and a bit of frost cover, making sure to open up the cover if it’s not freezing. Once the temperature is about 32°F (0°C), they should be good to go.

How to Grow

Stocks are very hardy and tolerate all but the harshest frosty conditions. They can withstand the cold through winter until they burst into bloom in the spring. However, they do need some care and the right conditions to perform at their best.

Light

A close-up captures a cluster of night-scented stock in bloom. Their delicate, bluish-purple petals are bathed in soft light, casting subtle shadows against a clean, ethereal background. The image's gentle focus evokes a dreamlike atmosphere.
Stocks prefer full sun but partial shade in very hot summers.

In most instances, they will prefer full sun, but if your summers are very hot, they will do better in partial shade with morning sun and afternoon shade. They will need at least 4 hours of sun to produce good blooms.

Water

A cascade of delicate, double-flowered stock (Matthiola incana 'Albita') bathed in soft morning light. The ivory-white petals boast glistening water droplets, hinting at a recent watering, and their layered texture adds depth to the vibrant display.
Apply mulch to help keep soil evenly moist around stock plants.

Keep the soil evenly moist. A good top dressing of mulch will help keep the plants cool. If you notice the top two inches of soil is dry, apply irrigation.

Soil

Close-up of two bare hands cradling a handful of rich, dark brown compost soil. The crumbly texture and bits of bark hint at its organic nature, promising to nourish future plant life.
They thrive in rich soil amended with compost and fertilizer.

Stocks like rich soil filled with good organic compost when planting. Turn the soil over to about eight to ten inches deep and add in plenty of compost, a few handfuls of slow-release general fertilizer, or Bio-tone Starter Plus Plant Food at a rate of four pounds per 100 square feet.

The pH of the soil should be neutral or more towards the alkaline side of the scale (6.5 – 7.5).

Temperature

A captivating close-up of light pink Matthiola flowers fills the frame. Their delicate petals boast a soft, ruffled texture, creating a sea of gentle pink. Packed tightly together, the blooms burst forth, their subtle fragrance practically dancing off the screen.
Thriving in cool climates, stocks will wilt in very hot summers above 65°F (18°C).

Stocks prefer growing in cooler climates like all brassicas. In very hot summers, they will wilt. Their ideal temperatures stay below 65°F (18°C). They are considered frost-hardy except for severe frost.

Fertilizing

A vibrant bouquet of stock flowers bursts forth. Sunlight bathes the ruffled petals in a warm glow, revealing a dazzling array of purples, whites, and pinks. Each stem proudly supports a cluster of blooms, their delicate edges catching the light in a mesmerizing display.
Feed stocks monthly with an organic vegetable fertilizer like Garden-tone.

You can use a product like Garden-tone Organic Plant Food that is used primarily on vegetables like the brassicas we spoke of earlier on your stocks. Feed monthly at the recommended rate from May through to August. Don’t overfeed stocks, or they can develop root rot.

Maintenance

Deadhead flowers frequently and trim bushy plants. Take advantage of trimmings by using them as fragrant cut flowers.

To encourage bushier plants with more flower spikes, pinch out the growing tips in spring and deadhead the spent flowers regularly. Cut off the flower spikes as close to the base as possible, and more will follow all through the season.

Propagation

A bird's-eye view of a garden bed teeming with tiny Matthiola incana seedlings. Delicate green rows of young plants huddle close, some boasting two sets of leaves. The dark, moist soil cradles them gently, while scattered pebbles add a touch of texture to the scene.
Dry seed capsules are collected from allowed flower stems, and then stored for later replanting.

The best way to grow stock is by sowing seeds or planting seedlings. At the end of the flowering season, leave one or two stems of flowers to go to seed so that you can collect them for the next season.

Long, narrow seed capsules will form along the stem and will turn from green to brown to indicate that they are ready for harvesting. Lay them out on paper in a warm spot. When the capsules split open, collect, label, and store the seed.

Collected seeds like this may not produce the same flower color as the original plant due to the chance of cross-pollination, so it’s a bit of a potluck when sowing – quite exciting, really, to see how they turn out.

‘Katz’

A close-up of pristine white Matthiola incana 'Katz' stocks, their delicate double blooms bursting with four densely packed petals. Lush green stems and wispy leaves frame the floral display, creating a mesmerizing scene of natural beauty.
This heat-tolerant variety grows uniformly tall stems perfect for cut flowers.

‘Katz’ is grown for its tall stems, 10-32 inches long, that are perfect cut flowers. They are known for their uniformity and are more heat tolerant than other varieties.

‘Cinderella’

A cluster of Cinderella stock flowers. Their double blooms, in a mesmerizing shade of deep purple, reveal a soft, almost velvety texture. The slight sheen on the petals adds a touch of elegance, while the blurred background emphasizes the intricate beauty of these blossoms.
The popular ‘Cinderella’ stock variety boasts double blooms and a long flowering season.

‘Cinderella’ is a dwarf variety that has lovely double blooms on stems eight to ten inches tall. This is a popular variety for a long flowering season and pretty in borders or pots. This variety has received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

‘Vintage’

A symphony of soft textures and subtle hues unfolds in this close-up. Light purple 'Vintage' stock flowers, their velvety petals gently ruffled, stand in graceful disarray. Hints of yellow peek through, like whispers of promises yet to bloom.
A compact variety, ‘Vintage’ stock flowers display early blooms in hues spanning white to red.

‘Vintage’ is a compact variety, 15-20 inches high in colors that range from white to pink, purple, and red. They are early flowering in the season.

‘Legacy’

A cluster of 'Legacy' stock flowers in full bloom. Their delicate pink petals, edged with a deeper hue, gracefully unfurl around green and white centers. Tiny green buds peek playfully from amidst the blooms, hinting at the continued beauty to come.
Reaching heights of two feet, “Legacy” stocks dazzle in varied hues.

‘Legacy’ stocks grow up to two feet tall in a variety of gorgeous colors.

Common Problems

There are not many problems with stocks, especially since the new hybrids are bred to be more pest- and disease-tolerant. Most problems will come from overwatering, soil that doesn’t drain well, or overcrowding.

Pests

A menacing close-up reveals a cabbage whitefly, its delicate wings contrasting against the intricate veins of a green leaf. Scattered around the intruder, a cluster of tiny, oval eggs glisten ominously, hinting at the next generation of plant-sucking pests.
Stocks may attract pests like aphids, mites, and beetles.

When plants are stressed or have been exposed to excessive heat, pests are more likely to strike. Sucking insects like aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies can attack as well as flea beetles.

Some infestations can be controlled by cutting the infected parts away. In major infestations, use a pesticide for the control of the specific pest. Use with caution, as most pesticides are also harmful to beneficial insects and pollinators.

Make sure not to use the flowers for decorating salads and cakes with any plant that has had a chemical intervention.

Diseases

A magnified view of a green leaf reveals numerous dark, circular spots. The spots vary in size and some have a slightly raised appearance. Despite the blemishes, the surrounding leaf tissue appears healthy and green.
Overwatering and overcrowding invite diseases like mildew, mold, leaf spot, and wilt.

With overwatering and overcrowding come problems with diseases like mildew, grey mold, leaf spot, fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, and root rot. Make sure there is enough air between plants, and that they are well-spaced apart.

Water at ground level in the morning so the water has time to evaporate during the day and is not sitting on the leaves.

Frequently Asked Questions

As an edible flower, stocks are great for imparting a fragrance to dishes like pasta and sauces, but their best use is on salads and as decorations for cakes and cupcakes.

They can be dried with some tips. Remove most of the leaves from the stems and then tie them in small bunches. Hang upside down in a cool dry room until dry in a couple of weeks. They may even retain some of their scent.

In ideal conditions, stocks will last seven to ten days in a vase. Make sure to remove all the leaves that sit below the water level and recut the stems before adding to water with flower food. Replace the water every few days and recut the stems if needed to make them last longer.

Final Thoughts

I have a personal love of these flowers because of their heady scent, which is one of my favorites. I find them very easy to grow with my other flowers. They’re not too fussy as long as they have enough water and are deadheaded regularly. They are worth the long wait for them to flower in the spring.



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