With a heady, spicy aroma and a hardy nature, stock annuals are easy-to-grow plants. Fill your garden with them or gift them as cut flowers.
When you’re looking for a plant that performs double duty as a garden grower and table centrepiece, stock is an ideal choice. They grow quickly into a vividly colourful bloom and require very little care to help get them along to their full potential.
Perfect spring and autumn beauties
While there’s not much that’s tricky about stocks, they are a bit temperamental when it comes to the weather. Their ideal growing weather exists between 10 to 18°C. When it’s cooler than that, such as in the fall, stocks will come to an end. Likewise, when the mercury starts to skyrocket, stocks won’t last very long without cool relief.
As long as they can exist within this temperature spectrum, stocks will grow quickly and fully until they’re about 75 centimetres tall. It’ll take about 10 weeks after you plant the seeds for them to reach their peak, but in between, you’ll see blossoms start to appear after about a week. Look for single- or double-rosette-shaped blossoms that come in a variety of colours, pink, white, red, yellow or purple, with the double rosettes providing that deliciously heady spicy fragrance.
Getting your garden going
There are some plants that do best if you put them in your garden already a bit grown, but stocks are really easy to grow from seeds. Keeping in mind their full size, space them 15 to 30 centimetres apart and pick an area that’ll get plenty of sun during the day (west and south are the best).
To help them along, apply a good dose of fertilizer when you first plant them and then about once a month after that. The soil should be kept between dry and moist, so a watering schedule of just a couple times a week is best.
Caring for stocks
Stocks pretty much care for themselves, letting you sit back and watch them bloom almost unassisted. Their biggest “predator” is the temperature, especially the heat; a little too much heat can cause their growth to be stunted, while way too much is disastrous. One way to guard against this is to plant them early in the season (roughly six weeks before the last frost) so you can enjoy their bloom for as long as possible.
Another problem stock seedlings can be susceptible to is bacterial rot, but you can remediate this by soaking the seeds in 55°C for about 10 minutes or so. Once stocks are grown, make sure not to overwater them so you can keep powdery mildew at bay, which is like the plant equivalent of the flu. It’s better to prevent it, but should it affect your stocks, chlorothalonil or equal parts baking soda with dormant oil should do the trick. You can also trim off the affected leaves to prevent it from spreading to the rest of the plant.
After you’ve established your stocks, pretty much all you have to do is make sure the area is free of weeds and that’s only for aesthetic purposes. They resist bugs and pests, and will provide months of beautiful blooms.