Matthiola incana is a garden plant characterized by gorgeous purple, pink or white flowers. Its edible flowers are often used in salads or desserts and it's an easy-to-maintain plant especially in temperate weather climates.
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Discovering Matthiola Incana
Matthiola incana, also known by common names such as stock flower, common stock, hoary stock, Brompton stock, or gilly flower, is a perennial flowering plant in the Brassicaceae (cabbage) family.
Matthiola incana may be a biennial plant in some climates, meaning it will flower one season and go to seed the next.
Its fragrant flowers have single or double blooms that come in white, purple, or pink and emit a lovely fragrance similar to cloves, albeit a bit sweeter.
With an average height of 1-3’, the many cultivars of Matthiola incana make it eye-catching and a beautiful background to lower growing garden plants.
The unusual light fuzz that grows along its stalk is how Matthiola earned its botanical name – incana, which translates to “hairy” or hoary (as it’s sometimes referred to.)
Because of its ability to grow during cool weather transitions (spring to summer) and the beauty it adds to any landscape, purple and white stock flowers are a favorite of gardeners who want to maintain color from season to season.
The plant grows easily from stock seed as long as the right temperature conditions are met, or it can be planted directly into the soil when purchased at a nursery.
Is Matthiola Incana Edible?
As part of the cabbage family, stock flower is not only beautiful but edible and medicinal as well.
The sweeter flavor of the petals makes them particularly well suited to desserts or as an offset to savory dishes.
Garnish isn’t the only use for purple stock flowers and white stock flowers. The seed pods also make an excellent addition to salads, lending a spicy flavor similar to a radish.
The seeds of Matthiola incana, while not poisonous, do have a bitter flavor. They are sometimes used to make a tea believed to have stomach-soothing and diuretic effects.
Moreover, some claim that the tonic made from the seeds of stock flowers has aphrodisiac properties.
For the safest eating, choose garden-grown Matthiola incana or flowers from organic sources.
What Can You Do with Matthiola Incana?
Stock flowers of all colors make a beautiful addition to spring gardens. They are a particular favorite in cottage gardens. Their height, color variety, and fragrance will create interest, texture, and a mixture of visual focal points in your garden.
Being such an ornamental plant, all colors of Matthiola incana make a dynamic statement as cut flowers when included in bouquets and table arrangements. They are also used as wedding flowers and décor when tablescaping.
For a real floral pop, sprinkle the edible petals of the purple stock flower or white stock flower on dishes while its stemmed counterparts sit in vases nearby.
Given the vibrant and varied colors, Matthiola incana is also a wonderful way to attract pollinators to your garden. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees will all gravitate toward stock flowers and help pollinate other plants nearby.
For those feeling particularly industrious, the flowers of Matthiola incana can also be used to create bright dyes, generally in shades of blue or purple.
How Do You Grow Matthiola?
Matthiola incana can be grown from seed, established plant divisions, or nursery transplants.
It’s considered a cool weather plant preferring early spring after the last frost with a growth and bloom time through late spring, but it will die back as the summer heat reaches its peak. However, stock plants of all colors can put on quite a show during the flowering season.
Matthiola incana is considered a half-hardy plant, meaning that it will survive a frost or two in certain climates; much more than that will send it into dormancy or death. It’s this characteristic that earned it the common name of ten-week stock.
For optimum growing, stock plant needs full to part sun at moderate temperatures. Specifications for expected bloom time will vary according to grow zone.
Maintaining the beauty and encouraging the growth of your Matthiola incana will require well-drained, mildly alkaline soil with a pH of 7.6-7.8, although it can grow in neutral pH soil (6.5 – 7) as well. It also requires regular deadheading.
With such beautiful, showy flowers, adding these to your home as cut flowers for vases will help keep the deadheads at bay.
Foraging Stock Flower
When foraging Matthiola incana for the purpose of eating it, it’s wise to be wary of pesticides and other poisons that are commonly used for pest control and plant longevity.
Once you are certain of your source, harvesting should be done with a careful hand. Choose stems with half or more of the florets to maintain the plant’s health.
If the chosen flowers are destined for decoration, be careful not to bruise or break the stem when cutting.
It would be best to use sharpened gardening shears to get the cleanest and least damaging cut.
4 Growth & Care Tips
When caring for your Matthiola incana, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Sun Exposure
Although it’s a cool weather plant, Matthiola incana loves the full sun. It’s the happiest with 6-8 hours of sun per day.
2. Temperature & Environment
It can tolerate partial shade during the hottest part of the day in particularly hot areas.
Cool weather does not mean cold. It thrives in temperate weather, so spring is generally its preferred season. For flower seed germination, a temperature of 55-65°F is key.
The Matthiola incana doesn’t like wet feet, so well-drained soil is also a must. Overwatering and sitting in a puddle can cause rot.
To determine if the soil moisture is correct, press your finger roughly an inch into the soil. If it’s dry on top and damp underneath, then the water level is good.
Once the growing season is over, cut the plants down to the ground level to encourage healthy regrowth during the next season.