In order to grow and care for the stock flower, you need not go overboard but follow these simple directions. If you want to invest in your garden portfolio in a way that will offer big returns, why not consider stock? Also called Matthiola, stock is a cool weather annual that comes in a wealth of colors and varieties, all of which will pay you back with interest.
Stock is best known for its spicy, sweet fragrance and as an excellent choice for flowerbeds and cut flower arrangements. Depending on the variety, stock can grow from about a foot tall to almost three feet, making it a versatile choice for any garden bed. Use taller varieties towards the back of a design to add height, or smaller ones towards the front so you can better admire their scent and their wide range of colors; stock is available in shades of white, yellow, purple, pink, peach, and red. While many varieties are single, meaning that they have four petals per flower, some are double, giving them a softer, more ruffled and romantic appearance.
Grow from Seed
Start seeds indoors, eight weeks before last average frost date, or, for gardeners whose winters are mild, start in early August for planting at the beginning of autumn. Fill starter pots with good quality, well-draining potting soil. Because stock is sensitive to excessively damp conditions, water pots from below; that is, place them on a tray filled with water so that moisture can wick up into the soil. Press seeds into the soil and cover with a very fine layer of potting soil. Place in a sunny location that is not too hot and keep soil moist, but not damp. In mild climates, seeds can be directly sown after last average frost date.
Stock prefer to grow in cooler temperatures, so plant outdoors immediately after last annual frost date. For southern gardeners, seedlings can also be planted in late September/early October, once hot weather has subsided. Choose a location that gets full to part sun and has well-drained soil. Dig a hole and amend with plenty of organic matter, such as compost or worm castings. Gently place seedling in the hole, then replace soil, firming slightly to ensure good soil to root contact. Water moderately well; stock seedlings, like stock seeds, don’t like to be too damp and excess moisture will cause the stems to rot.
Pinch back the tips of seedlings to encourage thicker growth and more flower production. Water seedlings regularly, and feed once a month with a good quality fertilizer designed for annuals. Cut off flowers once they are done blooming to maintain a neat appearance.
Use as Cut Flowers
Cut stock when buds are halfway to two thirds open. Look for sturdy stems where the lower positioned flowers are not dried out. Remove any foliage from stem that will be below the water line in the vase, then cut stem at a forty-five degree angle and to desired length. Make the cut under water in a bowl or filled sink to ensure the longest life for your flowers. Use a floral preservative and change the water regularly to keep stems healthy.