It’s possible that you’ve been wandering through a plant nursery when you caught a whiff of something that smelled faintly of cloves. For hundreds of years, people have flocked to the lovely cottage garden plants that are still popular today. Colorful and fragrant, heritage flowers are often thought to be the source of these blooms. It is reported that Thomas Jefferson imported them to Monticello in 1771, thus bringing them to the United States for the first time.
Stock flowers, sometimes known as gillyflowers in England, were popular in the Victorian era. When given to someone else, they are viewed as a statement of undying love. 1 Although frequently purchased as an annual, stock can readily be produced in home gardens. Colorful, long-lasting, and a great dried flower, it is a great accent to fresh bouquets. Salads and sweets can both benefit from the blossoms’ delicate floral flavor and the fact that they are edible.
A member of the brassica family, Matthiola incana is the botanical name for stock. Blue-green leaves resemble cabbage leaves, and the flowering plants look like brassicas that have gone to seed when the flowers fall off. Matthiola bicornis, or evening scented stock, is a species with somewhat larger flowers that is one of at least fifty different Mathiola species. There are a wide range of hues to choose from when it comes to the original native species, which has been extensively farmed and hybridized. As a general rule, the majority of types are between 12 and 24 inches in height. The short, oval leaves and sometimes double-flowered blossoms occur on the spiky stalks, and the flowers can be tightly grouped or scattered out loosely.
How to Grow Stock Flowers
It is likely that stock will be biennial in USDA zones 7-10, but it may also become a short-lived perennial as the stems become thicker and more woody each year. The best way to keep them healthy is to plant them in a cottage garden with other flowers that have similar cultural requirements, such as dianthus, heliotrope, larkspur, snapdragons, and petunias.
However, stock flowers can thrive in partial shade settings as long as they receive at least 2-3 hours of sunlight per day; indirect sunlight will help keep them flowering. Morning sun is preferable to afternoon sun since it is cooler and less intense.
A soil with a pH close to neutral is ideal for growing these blooms. A little lime or wood ash can be added to your soil to make it more alkaline, or you can simply use a commercial potting soil if you’re growing in pots.
During the summer, be sure to keep the plants well-watered, but watch out for leaf yellowing if you go overboard.
Temperature and Humidity
As a “half-hardy” annual, Matthiola incana can continue to bloom through one or two frosts in some areas. As much as it enjoys the chilly temperatures, a harsh winter could make this plant a one-year wonder. It isn’t a fan of high humidity, thus tropical temperatures are great for it.
Stock doesn’t require much fertilizer, but it is picky about the soil it grows in. A layer of natural mulch will help control weed growth and keep the soil moist and cool, both of which are necessary for healthy plant growth.
The plants seem neater, and deadheading stock flowers when their petals begin to fade may encourage new growth and additional blooms (this varies from one variety to another).
As a result of many years of crossbreeding activities, there are a vast variety of stock variations.
- ‘Cinderella,’ a petite variety with full double blossoms in a variety of attractive pastel colours and some brights, grows no taller than 12 inches.
- Flowers of the ‘Legacy’ line, which may grow up to 2 feet tall, come in a wide range of bright and vibrant colors, including scarlet and purple.
- ‘Starlight Scentsation’ is an 18-inch-tall plant that blooms in a variety of hues.
- Large, double-flowered “Iron” stock comes in a number of hues and is a popular choice for florists.
- Antique Pink’s two-toned pink flower contains soft green centers surrounded by a romantic appeal, making it a popular choice for weddings.
Growing Stock Flowers from Seed
In order to avoid wilting in the late summer heat, seed should be sown as early as possible. In rich neutral soil, scatter the seeds thinly and just cover them with earth. Spraying is a fantastic way to keep the soil moist, but don’t overdo it. Within 10-14 days, the seedlings will begin to grow. For more dense clusters of blossoms, pinch down the burgeoning growth tips of seedlings as they age.
Common Pests and Diseases
There are aphids, flea beetles, and cabbage white caterpillars that might cause problems for the stock. The best way to get rid of bugs is to gently remove them from the leaves and cut off any damaged areas of the plant. Fusarium wilt, gray mold, leaf spot, root rot, and verticillium wilt are all illnesses that may affect them. Most of these can be avoided by avoiding overwatering.
Chilling Stock for Flowers
While raising livestock is not a difficult task, it does necessitate a period of cold weather. Stock plant care requires two weeks of cold for early-blooming cultivars and three weeks or more for later-blooming variants. Temperatures should remain between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit (10 and 13 degrees Celsius) during this period. The roots may be harmed by lower temperatures. Blooms will be few or non-existent if this part of stock plant care is ignored. If you live in a location where the winters are mild, you may choose to buy seedlings that have previously been exposed to the cold. Growing stock in greenhouse tunnels at the appropriate time of year allows for cold treatment. Or, the economical gardener can start seeds indoors in the dead of winter and hope for the best. According to stock flower information, the plant begins blooming in late April in this climate. Late spring to late summer is the best time of year to see the flowers of stock plants in colder areas.
For the best outcomes, keep in mind the following:
- Since it will wither in the hot summer sun, this is a cool-weather bloom that must be planted early.
- Seeds should be sown at a depth of about 1/8 of an inch and barely covered with fine dirt.
- During germination, make sure the soil is evenly moist, and then add an inch of moisture per week after that. Avoid using too much color.
- For more compact flower clusters, pinch the budding tips of the stems.