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Matthiola is a plant genus that is part of the Brassicaceae family. It was named after the Italian botanist Pierandrea Mattioli. The genus contains about 50 species of annual and perennial herbs that are native to eastern and northern Africa, Europe, and Asia. Most species feature tightly clustered flowers that grow on spikes. They are used as cut flowers for mixed floral arrangements and as flowering shrubs for flower beds or borders.
Plants of the Matthiola genus are produced year round, but the peak season is between January and October. Some of the commonly grown varieties include Matthiola incana, which features pinkish-purple flowers, and Matthiola longipetala, which features light purple to white flowers. Other varieties in this genus produce red, yellow, cream, and peach colored flowers.
Successfully establishing a plant from this genus depends upon the soil condition in the garden. Typically, a loamy or sandy soil that is slightly alkaline will provide the best support for a growing matthiola plant. It should be well-draining as well. This genus of plants prefers full sunlight, but can thrive in partial shade.
Usually, Matthiola plants are arranged in borders with similarly sized shrubs along entryways or driveways. In gardens, the plants are grouped with other flowering plants. As a cut flower, this genus will remain vibrant for 5-7 days in a vase.
Generally, a fair amount of work is required to maintain the flowering plants of the Matthiola genus. Withered flower spikes are removed at the closest flowering side shoot. In the autumn, it is recommended to prune all growth to ground level. Regular pickup of plant debris that have been deposited on the ground, including leaves and twigs, is required to avoid fungal growth.
A common fungal infection which afflicts Matthiola incana is downy mildew. It causes white to light purple colored mold to develop on the leaves of the plant. Underneath, the leaves are damaged and become yellow. The disease can be prevented by applying fungicide and utilizing drip irrigation instead of overhead watering.
This genus is also affected by insect damage, particularly by aphids. They attack the leaves of the plant, causing them to distort and become yellow. The insect also leaves a sticky residue on the plant that acts as an incubation medium for certain fungal spores. Of most concern is the sooty mold, which can blacken the leaves and stems of the plant. Insecticidal soap is commonly used to eliminate aphids.
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