Matthiola incana, commonly known as stock or the stock flower, is a type of ornamental plant that is often grown in cottage gardens.
Some people use Matthiola incana for weddings because their long stems are perfect for cutting up into bouquets. They also have beautiful colors that change throughout the seasons which makes them perfect for all kinds of other different occasions, too.
No matter what your reasons might be for growing stock flowers, you’ll find everything you need to know in order to grow the perfect garden here in this article.
What is the Stock Flower?
The stock flower, or Matthiola incana, is a flowering plant that belongs to the mustard family. Named after Italian naturalist Pietro Andrea Mattioli, the Matthiola genus contains more than 50 different species of annual, perennial, and biennial plants and subshrubs. The vast majority of these are cultivated for their colorful flowers and intoxicating fragrances.
More often than not, the name “stock” is used to refer to the entire genus – but even more often is this name used to refer to the cultivars and varieties of Matthiola incana in particular.
Matthiola incana flowers are members of the Brassicaceae family and often referred to as Brompton stock, hoary stock, common stock, ten-week stock, and even gillyflower.
All of these flowers are heavily scented and available in countless different shades. Because of this variety, they are often used in floristry.
Types of Stock Flowers
Most kinds of stock flowers are planted from seed in the spring, typically from March on in cold areas but sometimes earlier if the weather is milder. Planting at this time offers a vibrant display of summer color.
There are other types of flowers that take longer to develop and therefore need to be treated as biennials. These are typically referred to as Brompton stock.
Intermediate varieties can be planted at any time. Also known as East Lothian stocks, these can be grown as annuals or biennials.
Some stock flower varieties to consider growing include:
- Vintage Brown
- Iron Blue
- Katz Apricot
- Katz Ruby
- Iron Purple Quartet Rainbow
- Antique Pink
- Katz Lavender Blue
This list is not exclusive, however, and there are many other types of flowers for you to choose from. Choose the one that works best with your growing zone and landscaping needs or consider growing a few varieties to make a bold statement in the garden.
Growing Stock Flowers
Stock flowers should be grown in well-draining soil that is kept consistently moist. You can grow these attractive, fragrant flowers to provide color from the spring until late summer, though they might stop blooming during the hottest days of the summer season.
The blossoms on your flowers will appear sequentially, from bottom to top, resting above lush and hair-like gray-green foliage. Petals can be arranged in single or double rows.
Consider planting this annual from seed to fill in bare spots among other blooms. They are great transitional flowers that last well into the end of summer and offer color when other blooms might be dormant. In some places, you can grow these plants as biennials or even perennials, though this is less common.
How does this work?
In cool regions, the flowers grow as an annual that can handle a frost or two, making it “half-hardy” or a tender perennial in zones 7-10. It will live for a few years, regrowing from stems that are increasingly woody each year.
Growing hoary stock flowers is not complicated but it’s important to note that the flowers do require a period of cold. You’ll need two weeks for early blooming stock flowers and three weeks or more for late-season varieties, providing temperatures of around 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit during this time period.
It’s important that you get this chilling period right, though, since temperatures that are too cold can damage the fragile roots of the plant. Failing to chill the plants can cause blooms to be sparse.
If you’d rather not have to worry about this aspect of growing these flowers, you can purchase seedlings that have already been cold-treated. This is also an ideal solution for gardeners who live in places without extremely cold winter temperatures.
How to Plant Hoary Stock Flowers
These flowers require full sun to light shade and should be planted on rich, well-draining soil. Make sure the soil pH is neutral, around 6.8 to 7.5.
When growing from seed in zones 7-10, start by preseeding in the garden in the autumn, which will allow for blooms in the early spring. If you’re growing in a colder climate, start your seeds indoors about eight to ten weeks prior to the last spring frost.
Sow seeds in individual seed starter cells so you don’t have to worry about disrupting the fragile roots quite as much when you transplant. Simply press two seeds gently into potting soil in each cell, then lightly cover with an ⅛” of soil. Maintain even moisture, allowing the cells to dry out before our water again.
Keep your seeds in a room with a temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and you should have seedlings within two weeks. Harden the seedlings off and, once the danger of frost has passed, you can plant the seedlings into your garden.
Transplants should be planted at the same depth they are within their nursery pots. It is wise to plant stock flowers early in the season since their blooms decline with the summer heat.
It takes stock flowers about 10 to 12 weeks to reach maturity, but for them to set buds, nighttime temperatures should be lower than 60 degrees and daytime temperatures less than 80 degrees, on average.
Caring for Stock Flowers
Your work isn’t done once your seeds or seedlings have been planted – you still need to tend to your plants! Fortunately, caring for stock flowers is simple – just follow these tips.
Maintain even moisture during germination and then provide about one inch of water per week. Try not to let the soil dry completely out but also avoid oversaturation.
Generally speaking, these plants only need to be watered during dry periods or drought. The water received via natural rainfall tends to be plenty.
One of the best ways to reduce weed competition around your stock flowers is to add a two-inch layer of mulch. This will also aid in cooling the ground and retaining moisture in the soil. Keep the area around your plants weeded well, either by suppressing weeds with mulch or weeding by hand.
Keeping your stock flowers weeded well will reduce competition for water and nutrients, improve air circulation, and help to deter pests.
Fertilize your stock flowers once per month, using a general-purpose fertilizer for flowering plants.
Alternatively, you can side-dress with a bit of compost tea. This should ensure fragrant, ample blooms.
Note that you may need to fertilize (and water) more frequently if you are growing stock flowers in containers as compared to the ground.
Pests and Diseases
When growing stock flowers, your best line of defense against various diseases and pests is to grow the plants in conditions that suit them well. This will make it easier for the flowers to fight back against any issues.
The most common pests you will have to watch out for include aphids, flea beetles, and cabbage white caterpillars. Both the caterpillars and aphids feed hungrily on stock flowers, sucking their sap from plant tissue. Flea beetle, on the other hand, gnaw on the leaves.
For all of these pests, you can get rid of them by handpicking or spraying them with the hose. You can also use an organic insecticidal neem oil.
Watch out for stock flower diseases like verticillium wilt, root rot, leaf spot, fusarium wilt, damping off, bacterial blight, and gray mold. As you can see, these diseases are primarily fungal and tend to respond well to treatment with fungicides.
You can prevent them by planting with proper spacing to improve air circulation. Also, avoid overwatering. For small fungal infestations, you can just snip off any affected foliage and throw it in the trash (don’t try to compost it). Make sure you sanitize your shears or clippers afterward to prevent spreading diseases to the rest of your plants.
Other Tips for Growing Stock Flowers
One final tip for growing stock flowers? Make sure you deadhead them so that you can enjoy more frequent, compact blooms. This may not always encourage reblooming but will help your plant remain more attractive.
At the end of the growing season, you can prune plants back to the ground. Remove the debris so that you can reduce the likelihood of diseases and pests overwintering in your garden.
Matthiola incana flowers are a great choice for springtime gardeners because they provide color to the landscape and grow in different conditions. They’re also relatively easy to take care of, so you can enjoy their beauty as long as possible. Consider planting a few seeds today so you can see for yourself!