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How to Care for a Matthiola Plant (Properly)

Amazing bright pink matthiola flower clusters growing in the garden

Genus Matthiola

Welcome to the matthiola genus, where plants are lovely and growing conditions are somewhat simple. The matthiola genus is part of the brassica botanical family (brassicaeae) which makes them cousins with mustard, cabbage, and cauliflower! That being said, matthiola plants are better known for being nice to look at than to eat.

This genus is home to 50 species of various flowering plants that grow to be anything from a herbaceous plant to a small shrub. They are mainly grown for their beautiful flowers with a uniquely spicy scent.

Chances are that you’ve heard of matthiola before, but probably under a pseudonym. They’re more commonly known as stock plant, gillyflower, ten weeks plant, hoary, Brampton stock, evening stock, or night scented stock. Their scientific name comes from Pietro Andrea Mattioli, who was an enthusiastic naturalist.

This is a flowering plant that deserves a whole lot more credit than it has received! These gorgeous flower spikes of ranging colors not only attract tons of pollinators to your property, but they also make amazing cut flowers to add to those late spring perennial bouquets!

What do Matthiola Plants Look Like?

Beautiful multicolored matthiola flowers growing in clusters

Growth Habit

Matthiolas are very varying plants! Their growth habit will vary according to species and growing range. They can live either as a half hardy annual, a short lived perennial, or as a biennial.

They’re called a half hardy annual (this is where the common name ten-week stock comes from) because in colder regions it will only grow as an annual that can handle maybe one of two frosts before it will perish.

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They usually exist as a tender perennial plant in zones 7 through 10. In these regions it may seem like they have perished, but they will often come back with woodier stems each spring.

Or, they will sometimes exist as biennial plants. This means that they will usually flower the first spring, but will only go to seed the following year. After they go to seed, they will perish.

Additionally, matthiolas will grow different stem types and heights depending on the species. Some columnar varieties will only have a single stem with a single cluster of flowers at the end, whereas others have more of a multi-stemmed growth habit with many loose, terminal blooms.

Again, depending on the species, matthiola plants will grow anywhere from a tiny 6 inch herbaceous plant, to a small shrub that reaches 35 inches height.

Macro image of bright pink matthiola flower clusters

Leaves

The growth habit of matthiola leaves varies greatly depending on the species. Some matthiola foliage will grow as a basal rosettes of leaves, whereas others will grow along the stem as well. Each leaf is a gray/green color, and they are usually covered with small hairs.

Flowers

Matthiola flowers are highly prized among the gardening community for their terminal clusters of showy blossoms that come in a great range of colors.

Flowers are borne either in dense clusters or loose terminal blooms. They come in a huge color wheel of options, starting from apricot, lavender, pink, yellow, white, red, and some are even bicolor.

Matthiola flowers will usually bloom starting in the early spring and last all the way through the summer. These are also known for having an amazing fragrance that is both spicy and sweet. It is said that their fragrance intensifies in the hot summer air, hence why some species are called night scented stock.

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What are some Matthiola Species?

Various colors of beautiful matthiola flowres growing in a large field

Common Stock (Matthiola Incana)

Common stock is a species of matthiola that is native to southern Europe. This is one of the more commonly cultivated garden varieties because it is very heavily scented.

Matthiola incana can be identified by its basal rosette of leaves, short height, sturdy stems that are woody at the base, and the gorgeous matthiola incana flower clusters of either creamy yellow, pink, red, purple, and sometimes even blue!

M incana flowers have also been cultivated to bear double flowers, and are a plant type that are mostly grown as biennials that will only last until the early summer.

Evening Stock (Matthiola Longipetala)

Evening stock flower, also sometimes referred to as night scented stock, is a wonderful ornamental plant that is native to Eurasia. They get their name because they emit their fragrance the most intensely in the evening.

Matthiola longipetala can be identified by its low growing, branched growth habit and purple to white flowers. M longipetala is also one of the more cold resistant varieties and grow rather successfully all throughout North America.

Smallflower Stock (Matthiola Parviflora)

Smallflower stock is a lesser known matthiola species that is native to Madeira and the Canary Islands, though has actually become an invasive species in Arizona of all places!

Matthiola parviflora can be identified by its very short stems that bear pale pink to white flowers that barely stand above the hairy basal rosette leaves.

Where is Matthiola a Native Plant?

Light purple matthiola flowers growing in the wild on the coast

One of the most helpful things I have learned throughout my gardening career is that knowing where a plant comes from, helps you understand how to keep that plant happy. This way you can try and mimic the conditions of their native growing region, so that they feel right at home in your garden!

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The matthiola plant originated throughout southern Europe, but can be cultivated in temperate zones throughout the world. They become naturalized in certain parts of North America and are even an invasive species in Arizona! They can exist in USDA growing zones 7 through 10.

What are the Growing Conditions of Matthiola Plants?

Now that we have all the necessary base knowledge of what matthiola plants are and where they come from, it’s time to learn how to keep them happy! Their conditions are easy to maintain – even though they’re quite specific – it’s usually getting them started that is the most challenging part.

Bright pink matthiola flower clusters growing in the sunshine

Soil Type

Matthiola plants are a little bit picky about the soil type that they live in. They prefer that soil to be both well drained and fertile. It is also important that soil is closer to being neutral or alkaline rather than acidic.

A great way to increase both the nutrient content of the soil and the drainage is by incorporating compost into the soil or potting mix. This will also help with achieving the proper acidity level, wherein they prefer levels around 6.8-7.5.

Sun Exposure

Matthiola plants are sun loving creatures. This means that they prefer to be able to sunbathe for a minimum of 6-8 hours per day! They can also tolerate partial shade in the hot afternoon sun.

If a matthiola plant doesn’t receive enough sun exposure it will start to develop a rather leggy growth habit in search of that sunlight.

Water Level

The matthiola plant has average water requirements. It is best that their soil remains moist and usually natural precipitation will suffice.

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If there is an extended period of no rain, they will need supplemental watering. It is best that they receive at least 1 inch of water per week.

The best rule of thumb to tell if they need water is by dipping your finger into the soil. If the top is dry but it is still moist underneath, it is the right level of moisture!

Amazing clusters of matthiola flowers growing in the garden

Temperature

Matthiola plants are also quite specific about temperature. There are some species that are cold hardy, but the majority of them prefer warmer climates. They can exist in USDA growing zones 7 through 10 as tender perennials.

Additionally, matthiola seeds require a minimum temperature of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit in order to germinate, and flower buds require a minimum temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit in order to bloom.

Fertilizer

Knowing that matthiola plants prefer to live in fertile soil, we know that they will respond well to being fertilized! You can start providing a regular high nitrogen fertilizer in the early spring at the beginning of their growing season, and fertilize once a month until after their flowering period is over.

Pruning

Something very low maintenance about matthiola plants is their pruning requirements! The only pruning that needs to happen for a tidy and neat growth habit is just plucking away any side shoots that develop. This will keep them growing upright and tall.

How do you Propagate a Matthiola Plant?

Small matthiola seedlings growing in the soil

Now that we know all of the basic elements of matthiola care, it’s time to learn about propagating your very own specimen! Don’t be intimidated; any level of gardener can grow their own matthiola, it may just take a little bit more effort and patience than the specimens you’re used to.

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Both in zones 7 through 10 and in cooler regions, it is best to start your matthiola seeds indoors before transplanting them outdoors. This is because it takes them a good little while to germinate.

Knowing that, you should start your seeds at least 8-10 weeks before the average last date of frost in the early spring.

1. Get a pack of individual seed starter cells. This way, the matthiola roots receive the least amount of disruption once they are ready to be transplanted outdoors in the garden.

2. Fill each cell with some moist potting soil. Press 2 seeds into each cell, and very lightly cover the seeds with soil. They need a good amount of sunlight for germination.

3. Place your pack of cells in an area of your home that receives full sunlight (a south facing window will do) and that has a temperature ranging between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. From here, simply ensure that the potting medium remains moist as the plants are getting established! Germination should occur in about 2 weeks, and seedlings can be transplanted outdoors once seedlings are a couple of inches tall.

How are Matthiola Plants Used?

Beautiful mauve matthiola flowers growing in potted containers

Ornamental Plant

Stock flowers are beloved in the gardening community because of their gorgeous explosions of bloom colors of varying shades, including white, mauve, lavender, apricot, creamy yellow, and many more.

They are often planted as a border plant because of their great ground cover abilities, and their most popular application are as biennial bedding plants. Not to mention they are a wonderful cut flower specimen thanks to those sturdy flower stems.

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FAQs

Is matthiola deer resistant?

Something great about matthiola plants is that they are naturally resistant to larger pests like deer, rabbits, and squirrels.

Will matthiola plants survive through winter?

Matthiola plants are quite specific about temperature. There are some species that are cold hardy, but the majority of them prefer warmer climates. They can exist in USDA growing zones 7 through 10 as tender perennials and will survive the winter only in those zones.

Additionally, matthiola seeds require a minimum temperature of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit in order to germinate, and flower buds require a minimum temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit in order to bloom.

What are the damaging agents to matthiola plants?

Much of the damage that occurs with a matthiola plant comes from having soil that is over saturated or is not properly drained. They are rather susceptible to root rot and downy mildew because of this. It is also common from them to experience infestations from aphids.

How tall do matthiola plants get?

Matthiolas will grow different stem types and heights depending on the species. Some columnar varieties will only have a single stem with a single cluster of flowers at the end, whereas others have more of a multi-stemmed growth habit with many loose, terminal blooms.

Again, depending on the species, matthiola plants will grow anywhere from a tiny 6 inch herbaceous plant, to a small shrub that reaches 35 inches height.

How should a matthiola plant be pruned?

Something very low maintenance about matthiola plants is their pruning requirements! The only pruning that needs to happen for a tidy and neat growth habit is just plucking away any side shoots that develop. This will keep them growing upright and tall.

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How do you harvest matthiola incana seeds?

Harvesting matthiola incana seeds is actually very easy! Simply wait until the flower blossoms have developed their seed pods, and wait until the seed pods dry out while they are still on the plant. Then simply collect them and crack open the seed pods to collect the seeds!

When do matthiola flowers bloom?

Matthiola flowers are highly prized among the gardening community for their terminal clusters of showy blossoms that come in a great range of colors.

Flowers are borne either in dense clusters or loose terminal blooms. They come in a huge color wheel of options, starting from apricot, lavender, pink, yellow, white, red, and some are even bicolor.

Matthiola flowers will usually bloom starting in the early spring and last all the way through the summer. These are also known for having an amazing fragrance that is both spicy and sweet. It is said that their fragrance intensifies in the hot summer air, hence why some species are called night scented stock.

Are matthiola plants annual or perennial?

Matthiolas are very varying plants! Their growth habit will vary according to species and growing range. They can live either as a half hardy annual, a short lived perennial, or as a biennial.

They’re called a half hardy annual (this is where the common name ten-week stock comes from) because in colder regions it will only grow as an annual that can handle maybe one of two frosts before it will perish.

They usually exist as a tender perennial plant in zones 7 through 10. In these regions it may seem like they have perished, but they will often come back with woodier stems each spring.

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Or, they will sometimes exist as biennial plants. This means that they will usually flower the first spring, but will only go to seed the following year. After they go to seed, they will perish.

Do matthiola plants need fertilizer?

Knowing that matthiola plants prefer to live in fertile soil, we know that they will respond well to being fertilized! You can start providing a regular high nitrogen fertilizer in the early spring at the beginning of their growing season, and fertilize once a month until after their flowering period is over.

How often should a matthiola plant be watered?

The matthiola plant has average water requirements. It is best that their soil remains moist and usually natural precipitation will suffice.

If there is an extended period of no rain, they will need supplemental watering. It is best that they receive at least 1 inch of water per week.

The best rule of thumb to tell if they need water is by dipping your finger into the soil. If the top is dry but it is still moist underneath, it is the right level of moisture!

What are some other common names for a matthiola plant?

Chances are that you’ve heard of matthiola before, but probably under a pseudonym. They’re more commonly known as stock plant, gillyflower, ten weeks plant, hoary, Brampton stock, evening stock, or night scented stock. Their scientific name comes from Pietro Andrea Mattioli (sometimes known as Pierandrea Mattioli), who was an enthusiastic naturalist.

What is the ideal soil type for a matthiola plant?

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Matthiola plants are a little bit picky about the soil type that they live in. They prefer that soil to be both well drained and fertile. It is also important that soil is closer to being neutral or alkaline rather than acidic.

A great way to increase both the nutrient content of the soil and the drainage is by incorporating compost into the soil or potting mix. This will also help with achieving the proper acidity level, wherein they prefer levels around 6.8-7.5.

How long do matthiola seeds take to germinate?

Germination should occur in about 2 weeks, and seedlings can be transplanted outdoors once seedlings are a couple of inches tall.

Can matthiola plants be kept as indoor plants?

Matthiola plants will do just as well indoors as they will outdoors, and sometimes this is actually an easier way to maintain the ideal growing conditions for them. Just make sure that they have access to direct sunlight, warm temperatures, and are kept moist and fertilized.

Are matthiola plants easy to care for?

Matthiola plants are actually not the easiest to care for! But only in the way that they require a lot more from you than other perennials may — many of them you can simply ignore them and they will prosper, but matthiolas need a little bit of help to stay happy!