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Plant Profile: Stock (Matthiola incana)

If you want fragrance in a flower look no further than stock. It is a cool weather plant and I rarely see it in North Carolina garden centers but it is very easy to find in southern California garden centers from Christmas through winter. In most other areas where summers are hot fall grown plants do not always make it through the winter so you should start seeds in very early spring and set young plants out after the first frost. Don’t expect to grow the long stemmed varieties you see in florist shops; be content with shorter versions that will give you just as much fragrance and a long vase life. And don’t expect a long vase life with no effort; stock fouls the water quickly and its water should be changed daily to get the most out of the flowers. If you decide to raise stock from seed don’t count on the double flowered kinds; 40% or more of seed grown stock can be expected to be single. So, given these negatives why would I grow stock? You just can’t beat the fragrance or the look that it gives to a bouquet or the garden. The English have used it in their borders since the early 16th century. Need I say more?

Type: Cool weather tender annual.

Bloom: Single or double 1” wide flowers in white, pink, mauve, lavender, purple, and yellow in spring.

Size: 8-36” H x 10-12” W depending on the cultivar.

Light: Full sun.

Soil: Fertile, moist, well drained.

Fertilizer: Apply water soluble slow release fertilizer every 4 weeks.

Care: Plant seedlings so that they have good air circulation and water so that leaves dry before nightfall; pinch young plants to encourage branching; deadhead to encourage flowering.

Pests and Diseases: Susceptible to aphids, spider mites, white fly, leaf spot and powdery mildew.

Propagation: Seed.

Companion plants: Iris, rose, primrose, pansy, poppy, ornamental cabbage and kale.

Outstanding Selections: Cinderella series (10-12” tall; five colors; basally branched).

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