Commonly known as the Stock flower, Matthiola [ma-the-OH-la] is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the family Brassicaceae or the mustard family.
The genus is native to southern Europe, from the Balearics to the former Yugoslavia.
However, it has been introduced and naturalized to the western part of the Mediterranean region.
The Matthiola genus consists of approximately 50 species ranging from biennials, annuals, and perennial subshrubs.
The genus itself is named after Pietro Andrea Mattioli who was a physician and botanist in 16th Century Italy.
These plants are most commonly cultivated for their heavily-scented colorful flowers which bloom at the end of spring until the summer season.
You may hear stock plants called by the common names:
- Virginia stock
- Vintage stock
Stock Flower Care
Size & Growth
Matthiola plants are hardy and drought-resistant and don’t take too long to grow and bloom.
If you start the seeds 7 to 8 weeks before the last frost date and transplant outside in the fall, you will see flowers in the following early spring/summer.
The size of the plant is dependent on the species.
Typically, the plant can grow anywhere between 1’ – 3’ feet in height and 1’ foot in width.
Stock Flowers and Fragrance
The Matthiola genus is grown as an ornamental plant for two reasons including their aroma and showy beautiful flower colors.
The plant is a cool-weather flower that blooms from mid-spring to late summer.
The shape, size, and color of each flower, sometimes double flowers, depends on the species and variety you plant.
For example, the Matthiola longipetala species produces purple to white flowers with four petals and are a ½” inch wide.
Matthiola incana produces flowers appearing as terminal racemes and come in various colors including white, cream, pink, lavender, yellow, blue, and red.
Stock is admired for its cool, unique colors and exceptional fragrance in cool-season gardens.
The smell is clove-like and very strong, it’s enjoyable when placed among other unscented perennials or annuals.
Light & Temperature
Matthiola species are sun-loving plants and do extremely well in areas getting full sun at least 6 hours a day.
However, some species can grow in partially shaded areas as well.
Even though the plants are drought resistant, they do tend to decline once the temperature reaches 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) in the summer.
Hardy in the United States (USDA) hardiness zone 7 – 10.
Watering and Feeding
The Matthiola plants require moist soil to grow and bloom abundantly.
In order to increase the amount of blooming and keep the plants healthy all season long, water them regularly.
Make sure the soil remains moist at all times, especially if the season is dry and hot.
As for feeding, over-fertilization can have negative effects on the plant’s growth.
Feed Matthiola plants just once a month, making sure not to overdo it.
Soil & Transplanting
Like a variety of other plants, the Matthiola genus loves and thrives in well-draining soil.
As for pH, the plants love mildly alkaline (7.6 to 7.8) soil but can grow in neutral or mildly acidic soil as well.
Use humusy soil or sandy loam in a sunny location.
When it comes to transplanting, it depends on the variety you choose when starting the seeds.
If you sow perennial or annual varieties in spring, transplant them in mid-spring or fall.
As for biennials, they are capable of transplanting in the fall.
Make sure to space them at least 6” – 18” inches apart to allow sufficient room for growth.
Grooming and Maintenance
One of the best things about growing Stock plants is the low maintenance.
You don’t particularly need to spend a lot of time to get the showy, fragrant flowers to bloom.
Any grooming required includes pinching off young plant shoots as it encourages taller growth.
Deadheading of entire spent stems stimulates regrowth all season long.
Water them regularly and feed them once a month.
If you want to increase the amount of blooming, plant them closer together.
How to Propagate Matthiola
Propagate using stock seeds.
- When growing outdoors, sow them on the surface after the last frost of spring.
- In milder climates, sow the seeds in fall, which will result in spring blooms.
- Start your Matthiola plants indoors.
The annual and perennial varieties of the Matthiola species should be started 7 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost.
Biennials, on the other hand, should be started in the summer.
It takes 2 to 3 weeks for the plant to germinate.
Once the plant is ready, transplant it outside in its permanent location.
Stock Matthiola Pest or Disease Problems
Some species of the Matthiola genus are affected by aphids, which are indicated by honeydew, galls, and distortion in leaves so it takes more plant care to keep them healthy.
Use an insecticide or treat biologically with wasps or Aphidoletes aphisimyza.
Pale green discoloration and sudden wilting are indicative of a fungal infection or Phytophthora.
Treat this by first removing infected plants and improving the drainage of the soil.
Suggested Uses For Matthiola Flowers
Various species of the Matthiola plants, especially Matthiola incana, are used as ornamental plants.
Because of their delicate petals, vibrant colors, and fragrant blooms, they are used as a cut flower and aromatic plant.
Phlox is another great addition to cottage gardens.
For a great fragrance, mix them with sweet pea flowers.
It’s grown in mass amounts by cultivators or by gardening enthusiasts.
They’re planted in the ground or pots during springtime.
In mild winter regions, it’s grown as a winter/early-spring annual.
They do well in the cracks in reefs situated in marine locations.