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How to Grow Stock — Matthiola

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Matthiola–commonly called stock–is a short-lived perennial or annual with dense pastel-shaded racemes of four-petaled flowers that are clove-scented from late spring into summer. Matthiola has gray-green lance or lobe-shaped leaves. It is a good choice for beds or cottage gardens.

Matthiola grows in full sun to light shade in average to rich, well-drained soil. Matthiola grows best in areas with cool summers; the plant can not tolerate warm nighttime temperatures.

Sow Matthiola seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost or sow seeds outdoors after the last frost. When sowing, simply press the seeds into the soil surface as light is required for germination.

In mild winter regions, sow Matthiola seeds in late summer to early fall for blooming through the winter.

Use Matthiola in mixed beds and borders as well as in containers. Grow stock where its fragrance can be enjoyed. They make excellent cut flowers.

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Stock, Matthiola incana

Get to know stock — Matthiola

  • Plant type: Cool-season annual or biennial
  • Growing Zones and range: All zones; winter only in hot summer regions
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy, biennials are the hardiest; growth will stop and the plant may die at 90°F (32°C) grow through winter in Zones 9-11
  • Height and width: 12 to 36 inches (30-91cm) tall; 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm) wide depending on the variety
  • Foliage: Gray-green lance-shaped leaves some with shallow lobes
  • Flowers: Single or double flowers about 2 inches (5cm) wide on tall spires, sometimes branched
  • Flower colors: white, cream, apricot, lavender, purple, shades of pink and red, and bicolor
  • Bloom time: Spring and fall; may not bloom if temperatures are greater than 65°F (18°C)
  • Uses: Flower beds and borders, containers, cut flower
  • Common name: Stock
  • Botanical name: Matthiola incana
  • Family: Brassicaceae
  • Origin: Scrub in Western Europe, South Africa, and Southwest Asia

Where to plant stock — Matthiola

  • Plant Matthiola in full sun to light shade; light shade is best in Zones 7 to 11
  • Matthiola will grow in average to poor soil; add aged compost to the planting bed when possible.
  • Matthiola prefers a soil pH of 7 to 8.

Stock — Matthiola uses

  • Plant Matthiola in beds and borders; mass plants for showy color.
  • Plant Matthiola next to walkways, patios, and windows where its spicy fragrance can be enjoyed.
  • Grow Matthiola in containers.
  • Use Matthiola in cut flower arrangements.
Stock, Matthiola incana
Stock, Matthiola incana

When to plant stock — Matthiola

  • Set Matthiola outdoors in cool weather, as early as one month before the last frost in spring.
  • Start Matthiola seed indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost; germination takes 10 days.
  • Sow seed outdoors about 4 weeks before the last frost in spring.

Planting and spacing stock — Matthiola

  • Sow Matthiola in flats or six-packs; sprinkle seed evenly in moist potting soil. Cover with 1/8 inch of soil.
  • The seed will germinate in 10 to 14 days at 60°F (15.6°C).
  • Grow indoor seedlings under a fluorescent light; when seedlings have six leaves, put them up to 4-inch pots.
  • Sow seed outdoors in smoothly prepared and fertilized beds; plant seeds 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5cm) apart and cover with 1/8 inch of soil.
  • Set 4-inch seedlings outdoors after hardening off or transfer them to 8-inch pots
  • Space stock 12 inches (55cm) apart.

How to water and feed stock — Matthiola

  • Keep the soil evenly moist for Matthiola.
  • Mulch around plants with aged compost or chopped leaves to conserve soil moisture.
  • Fertilize Matthiola lightly if at all; a 5-10-10 fertilizer will boost blooms.
Night-scented stock, Matthiola longipetala
Night-scented stock, Matthiola longipetala

Stock — Matthiola care

  • Mulch around Matthiola to conserve soil moisture and to keep rainwater or irrigation from splashing onto the plant.
  • Pinch back tips for business; do not pinch growth tips if you want taller plants.
  • Stake tall Matthiola plants inside peony hoots.
  • Mulch biennials with several inches of chopped leaves in winter, especially in windy areas. Remove the mulch in gradual stages when new growth begins.

Stock — Matthiola pests and diseases

  • Slugs and snails may be a problem; sprinkle diatomaceous earth around plants to repel slugs and snails.
  • Aphids and flea beetles can attack Matthiola.
  • Damping off, crown rot, gray mold, wilt, and leaf spot can occur.

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Stock — Matthiola propagation

  • Sow seeds outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked or start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the average last frost date.
  • Seeds germinate in 14 to 18 days at 65° to 75°F (18°-24°C).

Stock — Matthiola varieties to grow

  • Dwarf types grow 12 inches (30cm) tall and wide.
  • Columnar types can grow to 36 inches (91cm) tall.
  • Matthiola fruticulosa is a dwarf species that bears yellowish to purplish violet flowers.
  • M. incana is the most popular species; it is commonly sold by florists; grows 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm) tall; there are many cultivars
  • M. longipetala bicornis, night-scented stock, emit a sweet scent at night; stems and flowers may wilt during the day.

Stock frequently asked questions

Q: Why does stock mature without blooming?

A: Common stock is a biennial that does not flower until the second year. There are cultivars that bloom in seven weeks and ten weeks after germination; these include ‘Giant Imperial’, ”Giant Excelsior’, ‘Midget’, ‘Dwarf Ten Week’, and ‘Beauty of Nice’.

Q: How do I start stock from seed indoors?

A: Start seed indoors six to eight weeks before setting the plants outdoors just after the average last frost date. Do not cover the seeds; they need light to germinate.

Q: What growing conditions does stock like?

A: Plant stock in full sun and in humus-rich, well-drained soil. Fertilize just before planting and again about a month into the growing period. Keep the soil just moist. Pick faded flowers immediately to prolong blooming.

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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