Stock: A Cottage Garden Staple


Stock, or Matthiola incana, is a member of the Brassicaceae family of plants that includes cabbages. Originating in the wild in England, it is a favorite of cottage gardeners, prized for its dense clusters of fragrant blossoms.

Want to grow beautiful M. incana flowers in your cottage garden? We'll show you how:

Its Latin name is said to commemorate a 16th-century herbalist, Peter Matthioli (or perhaps Mattioli), personal physician to King Ferdinand I of Austria. Aa 1905 article titled “Memorial Plant Names,” in a Victorian-era British periodical called The Leisure Hour, refers to this likely origin.

A Multifaceted Plant

Also called gillyflower, tenweeks, or hoary, Brompton, or vintage stock, today’s colorful varieties are cultivars of the original M. incana wildflower.

Double Blossom White M. Incana |

This plant is known for its elongated racemes, or clusters, of single or double fragrant blossoms that rise on sturdy stems from lush grayish-green foliage.

There are other Matthiola varieties, including the night-scented M. longipetala. Visually, this variety pales in comparison, with its sparse, narrow petaled blossoms. However, it makes up for its shortcomings by emitting a heady scent in the evening.

M. incana is referred to as a half-hardy annual, biennial, and perennial.

How can this be?

This is a cool weather plant that blooms from early spring into summer. It needs temperatures below 60°F to set buds, otherwise you don’t get blossoms.

In cool regions, it grows as an annual that may withstand a frost or two, hence the term “half-hardy.” Sow seeds in early spring in these locations.

In warmer areas, M. incana is a perennial that may live for a few years, coming back with woodier stems each spring. Here, it blooms until summer heat becomes oppressive. It’s best to plant in the early fall.

The biennial characteristic refers to its tendency to bloom and set seed in the second year, in settings where it grows as a perennial.

Whatever its behavior, M. incana is the perfect choice for beds, borders, and container gardening. Sowed en masse, its soft blossoms blur like those in a watercolor painting, for a charming cottage feel.

How to Grow Stock for Your Cottage Garden |

There are numerous cultivars of the original M. incana, with heights ranging from an 8-inch dwarf variety, to taller Column and Imperial hybrids that exceed two feet.

To experiment with growing stock in various plant hardiness zones, consider starting seeds indoors, using cold frames or greenhouses, and providing shade from intense afternoon heat.

Matthiola incana Plant Facts

  • Average moisture, well-drained soil
  • Cool weather to set buds
  • Blooms early spring to summer
  • Fragrant
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Grow from seed or plants
  • Introduced
  • Numerous cultivars
  • One to three feet in height
  • Perennial in zones 7 to 10
  • Annual in colder regions
  • Colors include purple, pink, red, white, and yellow

Where to Buy

True Leaf Market offers a Stock Midget Mix. Each package contains 1000 seeds for flowers that range in color from purple to white.Stock Midget Mix |

Midget Mix Stock

This is a dwarf variety that reaches 8 to 12 inches in height. Expect approximately 60 percent of the seed to produce double-petaled blossoms.

Fragrant and Romantic

When it’s time to plan your next garden, be sure to include stock for cutting and bringing indoors.

Double Purple M. Incana |

I love to slip out early in the morning, when the dew still glistens, to collect an armful for a breakfast table centerpiece. Heliotrope and phlox are two of my other cottage garden favorites.

Did you know that you can keep vase arrangements fresh longer with two easy tips?

1. Remove leaves from the bottom portion of stems that will be under water.

2. Refresh vases daily by snipping the bottoms of all stems and changing the water.

You’re going to love having a ready supply of lush-blossomed cutting flowers!

Does stock grow well where you live? Tell us about your favorite varieties in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to Pin It!

Are you looking for a flower that evokes images of Victorian ladies with parasols in their cottage gardens? One that adds rich color and fragrance to beds and borders? Matthiola incana, commonly called stock, is the perfect choice. Learn all about this timeless classic right here on Gardener’s Path.

Product photo via True Leaf Market. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

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Jil (@guest_1617)
2 years ago

Something is eating my stock flowers!! Any ideas?

bojons flowers
bojons flowers (@guest_3403)
1 year ago

can stock be used in oasis? does it last?

Lori Austill
Lori Austill (@guest_3670)
1 year ago

It sounds like this would not work well for color in the summer in Florida. Is that correct? I want something that blooms all summer long.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Noble Member
Reply to  Lori Austill
1 year ago

Stock is a cool weather flower that blooms earlier in the season, so it’s not the best choice for summer color in Florida. Of course, this is a big state ranging from zone 8 in the panhandle down to zone 11 in the south. Depending on where exactly you’re located, and how much sun you get per day, some plants known for their colorful blooms throughout the summer may do better than others. We recommend blanket flower, hibiscus, coreopsis, and alliums, just to name a few. Keep an eye out for cultivars known for doing well in your growing zone,… Read more »

Dodie (@guest_6478)
Reply to  Allison Sidhu
8 months ago

I’d just like to add that this would bloom well in the winter in Florida.

Mary J. Ratliff
Mary J. Ratliff (@guest_4175)
1 year ago

Do you have to dead head stock to keep it blooming?

Lisa Capper
Lisa Capper (@guest_5894)
10 months ago

I live in zone 6a. I tried stock last year but it did not flower. After reading your article I realize I planted it too late. I waited until after our last frost which was around May 20. I’m trying stock again this year can you advise me how early I should put the transplants in the ground? Thanks for your help.

Mandy N
Mandy N (@guest_6307)
9 months ago

I Live in Zone 5B…Central IL. I would like grow these but, I do not have any growing light fixtures for starting them indoors from seeds. I am wondering, if I can start to grow them in pots and leave the pots in garage or south facing window?. ..Can you suggest how else I can grow them. Thank you.

Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller (@rellihcsnan8)
Reply to  Mandy N
9 months ago

Hi Mandy – As you are trying to grow stock outside its comfort zone, you’re on the right track with creative ideas.
Stock may be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last average frost date. Optimal germination temperatures are 65-70 °F. After the last average frost date, seeds may be sown directly outdoors. You may be able to get your seeds to sprout in the sunny garage window, and have everything to gain by trying.

Nat (@guest_6372)
9 months ago

Lovely article. I’ve got stock in my garden and it’s flowers for the last few years. Are you meant to prune it after flowering? It’s getting quite tall! Many thanks, Natalie

Brenda Swann
Brenda Swann (@guest_8299)
7 months ago

I never received my Purchase, They just took my money and I never heard from them

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Noble Member
Reply to  Brenda Swann
7 months ago

Sorry to hear this Brenda. Did you place an order with one of our affiliates? Many company are experiencing shipping delays. My best advice would be to contact them directly.

Lynda (@guest_8453)
6 months ago

Stock is one of my favorites to grow. Here in Utah the nurseries get them out for purchase too late always. And very few carry them. I also have a very difficult time finding seed. They grow well in my pots by my east facing front door where they get extra care and only morning sun, even though our temps get very hot. Any help in finding that seed?
Thank you, Lynda