Stock is appreciated for its cool, distinctive colors and exceptional fragrance in cool season gardens. In mild winter regions, it's grown as a winter/early-spring annual for bloom before the weather gets torrid. In maritime or cool mountain climates, it makes a good flower for late spring or summer flowering. A biennial treated as an annual, it's a native of the Mediterranean coast and a member of the mustard family.
Description of stock: Most stock varieties have become well-bred doubles, an upgrade from their wild, single nature. Modern varieties vary in height from 12 to 30 inches, but they're all rather stiff columns surrounded by flowers. The flowers are pink, white, red, rose, purple, and lavender in color.
Growing stock: Stock is at its best in the cool, humid weather of foggy, coastal areas, even though some varieties are more heat-tolerant for a longer flowering season elsewhere. Stock will tolerate light frost and is useful for winter bloom in mild climates. Elsewhere, plant as early in the spring as ground can be worked. Moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter is preferred. Stock should be planted in full sun. Space them 8 to 15 inches apart, depending on the size of the variety.
Propagating stock: Start new plants from seeds. For winter use in mild climates, sow stock in the fall. In other places, sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks prior to when ground can be worked outdoors. Seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't cover the seeds; they need light to germinate. A percentage of seedlings are singles. Doubles are usually the most vigorous seedlings and are lighter in color than the singles.
Uses for stock: Stock is relatively precise in appearance, best suited to formal beds where it can be lined up like soldiers. Plant them where the fragrance reaches passersby -- near walks, by doorsteps, and close to heavily frequented places. They're also adaptable to containers, especially if you combine them with informal flowers to break up the rigidity. They're also superb cut flowers, with the scent pervading an entire room.
Stock related species: Matthiola bicornis has a particularly strong scent at night; the daytime flowers are unexceptional, so plant them discreetly.
Stock related varieties: Trysomic Seven Week stock is the earliest bloomer. It is more tolerant of heat, offering a complete range of stock colors. It grows 15 inches high. Dwarf Stockpot has separate colors of Red, Purple, Rose, White, or all together in a mix. It grows 8 to 10 inches tall. Brompton mixed are double, in red, rose, and white. Evening Scented is white and pale pink and highly fragrant.
Scientific name of stock: Matthiola incana