Stock flowers aren’t nearly as popular as begonias, petunias or cornflowers when it comes to options for filling in bare patches in your garden, but they should be.
Not only are these flowers very easy to grow, most of them will grow rapidly, filling any space with plenty of color in very little time, even when grown from seed.
Some stock flowers are even known as 10-week-stocks, as it is possible to grow them and see them flower in as little time as that.
This makes them ideal for spaces that you want color in quickly, even if that’s just for this growing season, before you figure out what will go there the following year.
Not sure if stock flowers are right for your garden, or if you can grow them? Here’s everything you should know about them.
Stock Flowers At A Glance
Stock flowers are also known as Matthiola incana, and these plants come from the cabbage plant family, Brassicaceae.
Within the genus, there are more than 50 different species to choose from, but the majority of stock flowers are grown as annual plants, though there are other types available.
Stock flowers have bold colors in shades of red, yellow, purple, pink, and white, and are usually scented, making them very popular with florists and those that want flowers for vases, as they last a long time, even when cut from the plant.
The common name, stock, refers to how quickly you can build a ‘stock’ of flowers, particularly the annual forms, known as ‘ten-week stocks’, for how quickly you can grow flowers (see also Stock Flower Meaning).
They don’t grow very tall, around 30cm is about as high as they get, making them perfect for anywhere that could do with more color.
These gorgeous flowers have been cultivated for their ornamental value and fragrance since the 1600s at least, giving you some idea of just how long these plants have been around.
But why do we keep growing them?
Aside from the fact that they are beautiful plants in their own right, they are the perfect complement to any garden scheme.
It helps that they are so easy to grow that they are generally used to fill in the gaps where perennials have finished, or before they emerge.
The flowers can be tiny and single-form, but you can also get double-flowered varieties, and even medium or large flowers, so there is a kind for every space, and every preference.
What’s The Difference Between Brompton Stocks And East Lothian Stocks?
Different common names can be confusing, especially when it comes to stock flowers. Normally, different common names for plants are just part of their history, but in this case, they also refer to different ways you can treat the plants, so let’s break it down.
Brompton stocks refer to flowers that are biennial types, which means they take a year or so to grow the roots, stems, and foliage, and they flower in their second year.
In colder areas, these plants need overwintering, but the effort is worth it when you see their fabulous flowers in the next spring.
East Lothian stocks are otherwise known as intermediate varieties. The name comes from their origins in the southern parts of Scotland, and these plants can be planted as annuals, but they can also be treated as biennials.
You may also come across the name Maltese stock, which refers to Matthiola incana ssp. melitensis, which is a perennial stock flower.
Varieties To Consider
It’s worth noting that stock flowers are usually sold as mixed seeds, so it can be difficult to source different varieties or specific colors, but they tend to be grouped into collections.
Matthiola incana ‘Aida’
A standard form of stock, this particular type is more suitable for cooler growing zones, as it will withstand lower temperatures better than some varieties.
It produces double-form flowers that typically appear in pale orange.
Matthiola incana ‘Figaro Lavender’
A double-flowered variety, ‘Figaro Lavender’ is a gorgeously fragranced variety, producing a huge amount of lavender blooms per stalk.
Matthiola incana ‘Heaven Scent’
While not as long-lasting as a perennial as some forms of stock, ‘Heaven Sent’ more than makes up for it with its gorgeous deep pink flowers.
As it is a 10-week-variety, you’re likely to see blooms very quickly, even when you start the plant off from seed.
When To Grow Stock Flowers From Seed
Depending on where you live, and what type you might go for, you can sow stock flowers at different times of the year.
The majority of stock seeds should be sown in spring, usually in March and later if you live in the colder regions of the Northern Hemisphere.
If you want to grow Brompton stock flowers (or other biennial types), it’s better to sow them in summer in cooler areas, when it’s warm enough for them to grow their leaves, stems, and roots.
Then overwinter them, so they will flower in the spring.
With some seed varieties, you may see flowers in as little as ten weeks, but some take longer, so it’s worth searching for a variety that matches how quickly you want to see flowers.
How To Sow Stock Flower Seeds
Depending on when you are sowing them, you can sow stock flower seeds where they are to grow, or you can start them off indoors.
When growing them indoors to start with, you’ll need to cover them very lightly with fine compost, ideally less than half an inch.
Water them, and keep the soil damp until you see the growth emerge, at which point you should water them around twice a week, making sure not to waterlog the soil.
When the stock plants have grown their first set of true leaves, they are ready for bigger pots. Plant them outside when all risk of frost has passed, giving these plants plenty of room to grow.
You’ll need to space them about 15cm apart.
How To Care For Stock Flowers
Stock flowers are not demanding plants, but there are a few things you should know when trying to grow them, so that you can get the best out of them.
Sunlight And Position
Stock flowers like a sheltered position, away from cold winds and temperatures. Give them a position of full sunlight for the best results, as the plants produce as many flowers as possible in the best light.
Stock flowers need well-drained soil that stays on the damp side. They can live in sandy, loamy, or chalky soil without any problems, but the pH needs to be neutral to slightly alkaline, as they won’t thrive in acidic soil.
When To Water Stock Flowers
Water stock flowers when the soil has somewhat dried out, but not completely. You want a balance between the soil staying damp but not getting waterlogged.
If you plant stock flowers in the ground, they should pretty much take care of themselves, only needing additional water during very dry spells.
In containers, you may have to water once a week during the growing season, depending on the conditions and how long the container retains water.
Should You Feed Stock Flowers?
You can feed your stock flowers once a month during the growing season, using a general fertilizer formulated to support flowers.
Otherwise, they will do just fine on their own.
Should You Prune Stock Flowers?
You should deadhead faded blooms, as this will encourage the plants to keep producing flowers.
If you’re growing them as annuals, you will only need to prune them when the flowers have finished, cutting them back to the ground. This can prevent some diseases and pests from surviving the winter in your garden, too.
Otherwise, don’t prune your stock flowers, especially if you’re growing them as biennials. They will need the growth they produce to support the flowers in the following spring.
Growing Stock Flowers: Problems To Watch Out For
Stock flowers are quite resilient, but there are a few problems to be aware of when it comes to pests and diseases.
If you keep them in optimal growing conditions, it’s likely that they won’t be affected by pests or disease at all, unless there is already a problem with neighboring plants, or specific weather conditions attract them.
You may see the likes of aphids, flea beetles, and cabbage root fly attacking stock flowers.
These can be controlled by encouraging their natural predators into your garden, through your planting scheme, providing certain habitats, and making sure that your garden is as healthy as possible.
In terms of diseases, root rot, club rot, and downy mildew can all be problems. Broadly, to avoid diseases in plants you should make sure that there is enough space to allow for plenty of air circulation, and this will prevent quite a few of them.
Avoid overwatering, too, as this is one of the biggest killers of stock plants. If too much water pools around the roots for too long, the roots will rot.
Stock flowers are suitable for most zones as annuals or biennials.
If you’re growing them as the latter, you may need to overwinter them in cooler climates to make sure they survive the freezing temperatures winter brings, but the extra effort is worth the vigorous flowers.
You can use stock to fill in any gap in your garden, in containers, hanging baskets, mixed beds or borders.
As there are many colors and types to choose from, there is bound to be a variety that matches or complements your planting scheme.