Matthiola (Stock)

Matthiola flowers

A group of attractive flowering annuals, biennials and short-lived perennials. Ideal for borders and summer bedding schemes, or grown in a nursery bed for cut flowers.

Family: Brassicaceae (Cabbage family)
Botanical Name: Matthiola
Common Names: Stock, Gillyflower

Foliage: Soft grey-green, simple or lobbed.

Flowers: Densely-clustered, flower spikes. Often richly fragrant. Available in a wide range of pastel colours. Most hybrid groups provide mixed, double and single flowers. Double forms are usually the best.

Flowering Period: Ten Week Stock: June-August; Brompton Stock: March-May.

Soil: Moist but well-drained, humus rich, fertile soil (chalk, sand or loam). Alkaline or neutral pH.

Conditions: Best in full sun, but will tollerate some shade. Plant in a west or south facing aspect, in a sheltered position.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Hardy to half-hardy annuals and biennials.

Origin: Mainly native to Europe.

Hardiness: Hardy throughout the UK.

Planting and Growing Matthiola

Depending on classification, stocks need a fair degree of skill to successfully raise from seed.

They prefer a rich, moist, well drained soil that is slightly alkaline. Thrives in full sun or light shade. Lime the soil before planting if necessary. Do not grow in soil that has been used for growing brassicas during the last two seasons.

A popular choice for beds, borders and cottage gardens. Most varieties make ideal cut flowers and are often grown for just that reason.

There are four basic groups:

1. Ten Week Stocks usually treated as half hardy annuals, sown in the spring under glass, then bedded out to flower in summer. Average height 18in (45cm), but there are variations ranging from the Dwarf Ten Week Stock (12in) to the 'Excelsior' and 'Mammoth' strains which reach 2.5 ft.

2. Brompton Stocks (Giant Stocks) a short lived perennial that is usually grown as a biennial by sowing in summer for flowering the following spring. They produce both double and single flowers in pink, red, white, purple and creamy yellow. Height to 18in (45cm).

3. East Lothian Stock (ten week or intermediate stocks) which are grown as either a half-hardy annual or a biennial. A bushy plant. Height: 12in (30cm)

4. Night-scented Stock a hardy annual, sown in spring where it is to flower. Height: 12in (30cm). The insignificant flowers produce a rich evening fragrance.

Taking Care of Matthiola

Stake tall plants on open sites.

Pruning

Deadhead to extend the flowering period. Discard spent plants to the compost heap once flowering has finished.

Pests and Diseases

As members of cabbage the family, stocks are affected by the same pests and diseases, such as Flea Beetles and Clubroot. It is therefore best not to grow them in the same ground every year to prevent a build up of pests and diseases.

Propagating Matthiola

Propagation depends on the strain and can be quite troublesome. Acid free compost is essential.

Sow annuals in greenhouse or cold frame in early March. Prick off into trays or modules. Harden off and plant out towards the end of May. Annuals can also be sown in April where they are to flower. Thin seedlings to required distance.

For early spring-flowers, sow thinly in a light compost in trays or pots in a cold frame in August.

Sow biennials around June-July in a nursery bed, then transplant to flowering positions in early autumn.

Protect young plants over the winter. Seedlings are susceptible to disease. Always handle by the leaves and not by the stem.

NOTE: If you only want double-flowered plants, the type can usually be distinguished at an early stage by keeping only the pale green seedlings, which are usually the doubles. The darker green seedlings are mainly single-flowered, and can be discarded.

Popular Varieties of Matthiola

Due to the difficulties in propagating from seed many gardeners now buy young plants commercially in trays or as plug plants.

Matthiola incana 'Dwarf Ten Week Mixed' compact plants with strong, upright stems producing fragrant blooms in a wide range of colours. Ideal in borders, bedding and containers. Height 12in (30cm). For sale at Van Meuwen.

Matthiola incana 'Autumn Perfume Mixed' provides a mix of colourful blooms with a rich spicy fragrance. Height 18in (45cm). For sale at Van Meuwen.

Matthiola incana 'Appleblossom' a branching, short-lived perennial (typically grown as a half-hardy annual), with lance-shaped, grey-green leaves, bearing pink and white blooms in early summer. Height: 30cm (12in) For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Matthiola incana 'Cinderella Series, mixed' produces highly scented blooms that last well after being cut. RHS Award of Garden Merit. For sale at Crocus.

Matthiola incana 'Hot Cakes' produces gloriously scented stocks in a wide range of pastel shades, throughout early summer. Average height 18in (45cm). For sale at You Garden.

Matthiola incana 'Giant Imperial' a tall form available in a mix of pastel shades. Height to 3ft (60cm).

Matthiola incana 'Giant Perfection Mix' produces a dense show of sweet-scented flower spikes. Height 18in (45cm). For sale at Van Meuwen.

Matthiola incana 'Mammoth Excelsior' (Mammoth Column) produces tall summer flowers in mixed or single colours that are ideal for cutting. Height to 2.5ft (75cm).

Matthiola incana 'Most Scented Mix' bears closely packed spicy blooms on tall sturdy stems, in a blend of lovely pastel shades. Height 24in (60cm). For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Matthiola Incana 'Tudor Tapestry' a dwarf variety producing sweetly scented flowers in pastel shades. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Matthiola longipetala 'Night Scented Stock' provides a scented lilac blend of flowers that open in the evening. An excellent filler for borders and bedding schemes. Height 12in (30cm). For sale at Van Meuwen.