by Matt Gibson
Stock (also called Matthiola incana, Gillyflower, perfume plant) is one of the most fragrant flowers you can grow. Its scent is described as both sweet and spicy, not to mention incredibly pleasant. Many gardeners who have experience growing stock flower suggest making the most of stock by positioning them to mature at nose height, so that the blossoms are easier to smell while they’re in bloom. Stock flowers are quite hardy and sturdy, making them a great choice for containers or for planting directly into your garden beds. Stock is a cool weather flower that blooms from early spring into summer. The summer heat stops stock from blooming, as it needs temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit or lower in order to produce blossoms.
Stock is planted as an annual, biennial, or perennial, depending on the region where they will be grown. In colder climate areas, stock flowers are planted as annuals, as they will not survive more than the first few frosts. In warmer climates, stock is considered a perennial, as the hardy plants can survive for several years, coming back with sturdier, woodier stems each year, until the summer heat eventually takes its toll. Stock can be considered a biennial because it has a tendency to bloom and set seed in its second year.
The flowers range in color from basic shades of white, pink, lavender, and rose as well as coming in deeper jewel tones of red, purple, and blue. There are dwarf varieties that only grow to be eight to twelve inches tall and larger varieties that can grow two to three feet.
M. longipetala, a variety of stock that only opens its blooms at night, is visually underwhelming, compared to other stock flowers. But what it lacks in pretty plumage, it makes up for in its unique perfume. In the evening hours, when this stock hybrid opens its petals, you’ll see just why it’s so popular: It emits a heady, powerful fragrance that gardeners love. Even though this cultivar’s blooms may rarely be seen because of its nocturnal blooming hours, and even though the flowers themselves have been described as wispy or lackluster, that scent alone is enough to earn the longipetala stock cultivar a place in many flower gardens around the world.
Varieties of Stock Flower
The stock flower has been bred and cultivated to create more size and color varieties. There are now more than 60 known cultivars of stock flower to choose from. Here are a few standouts that we think you will enjoy.
‘Starlight Sensation’ Stock:
The starlight sensation hybrid grows no more than 18 inches tall, and it comes in a wide array of colors. When growing this cultivar from seed, you never know exactly what shade you’re going to get. Though you may have no idea what color you’re going to get, you can expect to see plenty of large, fragrant, single blooms all throughout the spring and the first few weeks of summer.
‘White Goddess’ Stock:
The white goddess cultivar is one of the most visually elegant stock flowers gardeners can find. Producing large, sweet-smelling double blooms on single stems, this stock hybrid comes in a eye-grabbing pure white tint with a yellowish-green center. The white goddess variety has it all—with its fragrance, looks, and double blooms, it’s no wonder that this hybrid is a hit in many garden beds.
The legacy series of stock flowers grow just two feet tall and are available in a host of different colors, all producing gorgeous double flowers and emitting the signature spicy yet sweet smell that has made the stock flower a fixture in modern gardens. This series of hybrids are a perfect example of why stock flowers have risen in popularity.
The Cinderella hybrid is a dwarf version of the traditional stock flower, growing no more than 10 inches in height. Available in all the major colors that traditional stock flowers are offered in, the Cinderella cultivar is unique because, in such a small package, it produces nothing but double blooms. Also, breeding this variety to be small didn’t take anything away from the size of the scent in the bouquet you can create with them. Cinderellas are a great choice to position in nose-high containers or as border flowers for larger perennial garden beds.
Growing Conditions for Stock Flower
Stock flowers prefer full sunlight exposure, but they will tolerate partial shade in the right climates. Stock thrives in rich, loose soil that drains well. These flowers need to be fed once right after planting, and then once per month, using a general purpose fertilizer for flowering plants.
How to Plant Stock Flower
Stock flowers can be planted from seedlings or seed, though planting them from seedlings has a higher success rate. If you choose to go with seedlings, dig out holes large enough to place the seedlings in, and plant them just two inches below the soil, where the crown of the plant is just beneath soil level. Give at least 15 centimeters of space between the plants on all sides.
If you’re planting from seed, sow indoors early in the season. Cover very lightly with less than a half inch of fine garden soil or potting mix. Water the young plants thoroughly and often until stems begin to sprout up, then water only twice per week. Transplant stock into the garden after the last frost date has passed, spacing each plant out about seven to 12 inches apart. Plant stock in full sun except for in very hot climates, where the flowers would enjoy a bit of afternoon shade. If you are worried about soil quality, layer in plenty of well-rotted organic matter.
Care for Stock Flower
Stock flowers need very little care once established. Water is needed during dry periods or drought, but usually, rainwater will suffice. Fertilize once per month with a general purpose fertilizer for flowering plants. Deadhead the flower heads during the blooming season to encourage new growth and an elongated blooming period.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Stock Flower
There are no major issues with pests or diseases with stock flower. However, if any problems do arise, they should be easily treated with a insecticide, fungicide or repellents as needed.
Companion Planting with Stock Flower
For the perfect cottage flower garden, pair stock flowers with heliotrope and phlox. These three will also partner perfectly as cut flowers for indoor arrangements. Another great pairing for stock flowers is nemesia. These two flowers will make a lovely pair throughout the spring, and in the summer, when the stock blooms stop popping, nemesia will continue to flourish and carry the load in their absence. For a duo that will will bloom all spring long and then fade together, try stocks with pansies. When they have both gone dormant, tear them up and replant with warm season annuals, such as marigolds or petunias. A great combination for fragrance is a mixture of stock and sweet pea flowers. Sweet peas can be grown as annuals or perennials, bearing big ruffled blooms in tons of different colors. Most types of sweet pea flowers have a strong bouquet as well, and pairing them with stocks could give you the sweetest smelling garden in your neighborhood.
Stock Flower for Indoor Bouquets
Stock flower is a natural for indoor arrangements. The flower retains its shape and color long after it has been separated from the plant base and root system. Not only do stock flowers look excellent in a vase, the cut blooms continue to relinquish an amazing fragrance to enjoy indoors.
Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your cut flower arrangements: Remove leaves from the bottom of the stems. Any part of the stem that’s going to be hidden in the vase and submerged underwater should be removed. This way, the plant is not spending precious energy on trying to keep hidden leaves looking healthy and instead will focus on the blooms up top that you want to stick around as long as possible. Replace the water every day to retain freshness. When changing the water, snip the bottom of the stems each day. Use a fertilizer specifically engineered for cut flowers, and just add it to the water. Just because the flowers have been separated from their root systems doesn’t mean that they don’t require food to stay healthy. The better you take care of your arrangements after you cut them, the longer they will last to fill your home with beauty and joy.
Watch this video for a quick tutorial on how to grow stock at home:
Watch this video to learn about stock culture, get some growing tips and learn how many growers are using their stock flowers to make perfume:
This video will teach you how to propagate stock plants from seed:
Want to Learn More About Stock Flower?
Better Homes & Gardens covers Stock Flower
GardenersHQ covers How to Grow Matthiola Plants
The Gardener’s Network covers How to Grow Stock Plants
Gardener’s Path covers Stock: A Cottage Garden Staple
Gardening Direct covers How to Grow Stocks
Gardening Know How covers Growing Stock Flowers