How To Grow - Stocks

Stocks (Matthiola) are super hardy and sturdy plants which are great in containers on a terrace or as gap fillers in borders with a profusion of flowers that will full your garden with their sweet scent in April and May regardless of the weather! Here’s our handy guide to growing stocks.

Basics

The particular range of colours which stocks can provide, combined with their beautiful scent, has made these flowers a classic of cool season gardening. It can be grown as a late winter and early spring annual. Originally it grew in the Mediterranean coastal region. The flowers range across white, red, rose, purple, lavender and pink.

When and where to plant

The planting location should be in full sun (though not high temperatures), in moist, freely draining soil. Dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Plug plants should be planted out between late August and mid September. Grow on plants under cover until they reach 8 to 10 cm in height at which point they’re ready to plant out. Plant them in a location where the scent will reach you in the garden. Stocks look particularly striking as part of a formal arrangement.

How to plant

To plant out plugs, dig individual holes for each plant large enough for the stem to be buried no lower than it was in the pot. Water in generously. Feed and water throughout the season. Plant around 15 cm apart; bear in mind that the height will be between 20 and 30 cm. Leave a space of 15 cm between plants. To plant from seed, sow out in the autumn if the soil is not at risk of freezing.

Flowering

The flowers grow in thick clusters on the spike-like stems. Taller growth and a greater profusion of flowers can be encouraged by pinching the shoots back. The flowers are also used as cut flowers as their scent and densely packed blooms look wonderful in an arrangement.

Plant care

Regular watering and a monthly plant feeding are all that’s required to care for your stocks. Cuttings can be taken from perennials at the end of the summer – snip off a shoot around 5 cm long, ideally cutting at the point of a leaf node. Nip off any flowers or buds on the shoot, and nip away all but three leaves. Dip into a rooting hormone and plant into a pot of compost.

Did you know

The double flowered form of stock is highly prized, and it is the result of a recessive gene. The double flower is sterile. According to Mendelian calculations, around a quarter of your flowers should be double.


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