Stock flowers (Matthiola) maybe don’t have the most striking name, but they are among some of the most popularly grown flowers – both in personal and commercial gardens. They produce lovely racemes of flowers, attract pollinators, and perfume the world with their sweet fragrance. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about Stock flower meaning, its uses, growing tips, and suitable gifting occasions. 

Stock Flower Meaning, Symbolism, Uses, and Growing Tips

Stock Flowers – The Essentials: 

Plant Family:Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae)
Native Range:Mediterranean region, Southwest Asia
Colors:Various shades, including white, pink, purple, and red
Characteristics:Fragrant, densely-packed flower spikes
Mature Height:12 to 36 inches
Flowering Season:Spring to summer, some varieties can bloom in fall
Growing Zones:Varies depending on the species
Sunlight:Full sun to partial shade
Watering:Moderate watering with well-draining soil
Soil:Well-draining soil with average fertility
Fertilizing:Fertilize every 4-6 weeks with a balanced fertilizer
Pests:Susceptible to aphids, caterpillars, and snails
Pruning:Deadhead spent flowers to encourage new blooms
Symbolism:Represents beauty, affection, and lasting love

About Stock Flowers (Matthiola)

About Stock Flowers (Matthiola)


A member of the Brassicaceae (mustard) plant family, Matthiola is a genus containing 55 accepted species of plants that are commonly called stock or gillyflower.

Botanical Characteristics

The Matthiola genus contains a variety of herbaceous, annual, biennial, and perennial flowering plants and subshrubs. Stock plants grow in upright clusters or clumps. They typically grow to be between one and three feet in height. The leaves can be ovate to lanceolate and are usually covered in fine hairs.

The flowers are produced on large, cone-shaped racemes, and blossoms can be either single or double in variety. They come in a wide array of colors, including several shades of purple, pink, red, and white.

Stock flowers have a relatively strong, spicy, sweet fragrance, similar to clove.

Native Range

Plants of the Matthiola genus are native to the Mediterranean region, the United Kingdom (extinct in Ireland), southern Africa, the central east coast of Africa, western Asia, and north-central Russia.

Most stock flowers available and commonly grown today are cultivars and hybrids of a select few species, including Matthiola incana, Matthiola sinuata, and Matthiola odorata. Some of the most popular varieties for garden cultivation include:

  • Matthiola incana ‘Antique Pink’
  • Matthiola longipetala subsp. bicornis ‘Starlight Scentsation’
  • Matthiola incana ‘Iron’
  • Matthiola incana ‘Cinderella’
  • Matthiola incana ‘Legacy’

The Meaning and Symbolism of Stock (Matthiola)

The Meaning and Symbolism of Stock (Matthiola)


The genus name, Matthiola, refers to the Italian naturalist Pietro Andrea Mattiolii. The exact origin of the flower’s common name, stock, is not quite clear. However, it might refer to the stocky growth of the perennial plants or even their common use as a filler plant in gardens.

Meaning and Symbolism

Stock flowers represent a happy life and contentment. In the Victorian language of flowers, stock symbolizes lasting beauty, bonds of affection, and the phrase, “You’ll always be beautiful to me.” The ten-week variety of stock represents promptness.

In addition, Stock flowers carry the following symbolic meanings: 

Affection and Devotion: 

Stock Flowers are associated with affection and devotion. They are often given as a token of love and represent deep emotional bonds and strong connections between individuals.

Lasting Love and Fidelity: 

Stock Flowers are sometimes considered symbolic of lasting love and fidelity. They convey a message of commitment and faithfulness in relationships, making them suitable for occasions like weddings and anniversaries.

Happiness and Contentment: 

Stock flowers’ vibrant colors and lovely fragrances are believed to evoke feelings of happiness and contentment. They symbolize joy, cheerfulness, and positive emotions.

Good Luck and Prosperity: 

In some cultures, Stock Flowers are believed to bring good luck and prosperity. They are associated with abundance, success, and positive outcomes in various endeavors.

Cultural Significance

In the United States, stock flowers have an interesting place in history. It is believed that the third president, Thomas Jefferson, was responsible for the naturalization of stock flowers in the United States, as he had stock imported from Europe to be planted in his gardens at his home in Monticello, Virginia, in 1771.

Folklore and Stories

During the Victorian era, stock flowers were quite popular. They were sometimes gifted as symbols of deep love and were also used in bridal bouquets to represent a happy and contented life.

Uses and Benefits of Stock Flowers

Uses and Benefits of Stock Flowers


Stock plants have showy, long-lasting blooms that come in various colors, making them a favorite in ornamental gardens.


They attract birds, bees, and butterflies to the garden with their sweet fragrance.

Edible Flowers

Certain stock flowers are edible and often used to add visual interest, decoration, and a delicate, floral taste to drinks, salads, and desserts.

Bouquets and Dried Flowers

Stock flowers are among the most popular cut flowers to use in floral arrangements and bouquets. They also dry well, retaining their vibrant colors for use in dried floral designs.


Stock flowers are a natural source of purple and blue dye.

Herbal Medicine

The seeds of certain species of stock flowers have been used in herbal medicine as an expectorant, stimulant, diuretic, and aphrodisiac. They’ve also been used as a tonic to treat stomach aches and as a treatment for poisonous bites.

How to Grow Stock Flowers

How to Grow Stock Flowers

Suitable Growing Zones

Stock flowers are suitable for growing in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 through 10.

Garden Uses and Choosing the Right Location

Stock flowers are versatile in gardens and are commonly grown in borders, beds, and containers in cutting gardens and sensory gardens as well as formal, informal, city, courtyard, and cottage-style gardens.

When selecting a location to grow your stock, be mindful of the variety and its height. Taller plants are better placed toward the back of a garden, while more compact types make a more significant impact toward the front of a garden.

Select a location that receives full sun (at least two to three hours daily) to partial shade. Stock flowers perform best in places where they receive cooler morning sun and have some shade in the hotter afternoon.

Soil Requirements

Plant stock flowers in rich, neutral (pH 6.8 to 7.5), well-draining soil or a commercial potting mix designed for blooming plants.

Planting Tips and Techniques

If you live in a mild climate, you can sew stock flower seeds in the late fall for an early spring bloom. If, however, you live in a cooler climate, wait until spring when the last frost has passed before sewing your seeds. Additionally, in cooler temperatures, you should start seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before the final frost.

Stock plants should have about 12 to 18 inches of space for growing.

Watering, Fertilizing, and Mulching

Stock plants should be watered regularly to keep the soil evenly moist. Be careful, however, not to overwater to avoid root rot.

Stock also performs best when well-fed. Fertilize with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer at the beginning of the season or once a month with a liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season.

Add a layer of mulch to maintain optimal soil moisture and temperature.

Caring for Stock Flowers

Caring for Stock Flowers

Pruning and Deadheading

Deadheading stock plants throughout the blooming season can help to encourage continuous blooming while keeping the plant healthy. Stock plants typically do not need to be pruned, as they are commonly grown as annuals. However, if your varieties are perennials, then you can cut back the spent blooms and dead foliage at the end of the season or before early spring.

Common Pests and Diseases

Flea beetles, aphids, and cabbage white caterpillars are common pests. Remove them from the plants, cut away affected leaves and stems, and treat the plants with neem oil or an insecticide.

Being careful not to overwater stock can prevent the development of gray mold, leaf spot, root rot, verticillium wilt, and fusarium wilt.

Overwintering and Storage

In cold climates, stock flowers must be protected from the dropping temperatures. Move potted stock plants indoors to a moderately cool, sunny location. For stock plants growing in the ground, add a layer of mulch and blanket the plants with frost protectors.

Best Companion Plants for Stock Flowers

Selecting companion plants that fit your garden’s aesthetic while also having the same care requirements and environmental preferences as stock flowers will help to keep your whole garden healthy and thriving. Some popular companion plants for stock flowers include:

  • DianthusDianthus flowers are bright-pink and pinwheel-shaped. They are low-growing and can make a lovely ground cover to accent your taller stock plants.
  • HeliotropeHeliotropes are shrub-like plants that grow to be about the same size as stock. Their round bunches of purple flowers contrast the spikes of stock plants.
  • LarkspurLarkspurs have a similar shape and height to stock flowers, and they blossom in several colors.
  • SnapdragonsSnapdragons also bloom in a wide variety of hues. Their attractive seed pods add additional post-season interest.
  • Petunias – With their trailing growth habit and an endless variety of hybrids and cultivars, petunias are an excellent choice for accompanying stock in a cottage garden.

Creative Uses for Stock Flowers

Stock flowers provide the perfect look for both informal cottage gardens and more formal courtyard gardens. With their bright colors, exciting shapes, and lovely clove scent, they are also excellent for sensory gardens. They can also be planted near windows so you can enjoy their fragrance indoors too.

Stock flowers are also popular in cutting gardens and floral arrangements. Their tall, sturdy stalks add height, shape, and color to designs.

Stock Flower Crafts

Racemes of stock flowers can be dried by hanging them upside down in a cool, dry location. They can then be incorporated into various crafts and home decor projects, such as garlands and wreaths for decorating your front door or a mantel.

Stock Flower FAQs:

For How Long Do Stock Flowers Bloom?

Stock flowers bloom for four to six weeks from midsummer to early fall.

What Is the Ideal Climate for Growing Stock Flowers?

For optimal growth and maximum blooms, stock flowers are happiest in USDA growing zones 7 through 10.

Can Stock Flowers Grow in Containers or Indoors?

In my experience, stock flowers can be grown in containers, and they do well indoors as long as they have a sunny location.

How Often Should I Water My Stock Flowers?

For optimal growth, stock flowers require even moisture. Water them regularly, just as the soil is beginning to dry.

When Is the Best Time of Year to Plant Stock Flowers?

The best time to plant stock flowers is in spring after the final frost has passed.

How Can I Protect My Stock Flowers from Pests and Diseases?

The best way to protect stock from diseases is to avoid overwatering the plants.

How Can I Extend the Lifespan of My Stock Flowers After They’ve Been Cut?

Put cut flowers in water as soon as possible, keep the stems clean, change the water frequently, and do not display them in direct sunlight.

Stock Your Garden With Beauty!

Stock flowers are relatively easy to grow and offer a big payoff. Whether you want to enjoy them in your garden, breathe their scent in through an open window, or cut their stalks for a bouquet, these beauties earn their place in any garden.

Editorial Director | Full Bio | + posts

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

Author Andrew Gaumond

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

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