How to grow and care for night-scented stock
Advice on growing and caring for night-scented stock, in our Grow Guide.
This article has been checked for horticultural accuracy by Oliver Parsons.
Night-scented stock, also known as evening stock, is a hardy annual plant that brings old-fashioned pretty delicacy and gorgeous fragrance to an informal or cottage garden flower border. Its white, lilac, or pink simple four-petalled flowers, borne on slender grey green stems with long narrow leaves, give off a strong sweet perfume in late evening, making them extremely attractive to night-flying moths. They work well in a border as well as in pots, and can be cut for indoor flower displays. The flowers of night-scented stock, and also those of the related stock flower (Matthiola incana) are edible and can be added to salads.
How to grow night scented stock
Grow night-scented stock from seed in full sun in an informal flower border. No pruning is required – in autumn simply remove the remains of the plants and add them to your compost heap.
Where to grow night-scented stock
It’s best to grow night-scented stock in full sun. It will also flower in dappled shade, but perhaps not as prolifically. The soil should be moist and well-drained, and not highly acidic. Choose a sheltered spot, protected from strong winds that might blow it over, near seating areas where you can appreciate the fragrance, or under a window or by a door so that scent wafts into the house during the evening. Night-scented stock can also be grown in pots.
How to plant night-scented stock
Night-scented stock doesn’t react well to being moved, so it's best to sow it directly into the border or pot where you want it to grow. It’s easy to grow from seed and, as it’s hardy, you can sow it in the garden early in the year, even before the frosts have passed (in very mild areas that don’t get frosts, such as coastal areas of southern England, you can sow in autumn). Sowing at intervals from late winter to mid-summer will give you a succession of flowers throughout the season.
Prepare the area by removing any weeds and raking it over, and sow the seed thinly, either scattering it across the patch or drawing wriggly lines in the soil with a stick and sowing the seed along those lines, for a more naturalistic look. Rake again lightly and water in, using a watering can with a rose on its spout, to disperse the water. Depending on the time of year, germination will take between 10 days and three weeks. As the seedlings grow, thin them out in stages to about 20cm apart. The slender stems of night-scented stock are up to 60cm tall and are prone to falling over, so you might consider sowing other hardy annuals alongside it, such as nigella, cornflowers and poppies. These will grow up at a similar rate and provide structural support, while complementing the cottage garden style.
How to care for night-scented stock
Night-scented stock needs little care, apart from regular water in dry conditions, especially when at the seedling stage. They should flower between six to eight weeks after sowing and the flowers last for three weeks. To extend the display, make several sowings, at three-week intervals and you’ll have flowers and fragrance all summer long.
How to propagate night-scented stock
As the flowers fade and fall, seedpods will form. Let them ripen, allowing them to dry out before you harvest them. Take the seeds out of the pods and store them in a twist of paper or small envelope (carefully labelled, so that you don’t forget what they are) and then sow as before.
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How to prune night-scented stock
No pruning is required. In autumn remove the remains of the plants and feed them to your compost heap.
Pests and diseases
Slugs and snails may damage young plants. Otherwise night-scented stock is problem free.
Advice on buying night-scented stock
- Night-scented stock or evening stock may also be sold as Matthiola bicornis, Matthiola longipetala bicornis, or Matthiola longipetala. Take care not to mix it up with stocks or gilly-flower, Matthiola incana.
- Night-scented stock is available to grow from seed or from plug plants
- If buying plants, always check for signs of damage or disease