A night scented stock, also known as an evening stock or Matthiola longipetala, is a flower better known for its fragrance than its appearance. These plants are popular among gardeners as an especially easy flower for beginners to grow. Night scented stock blooms from late spring through summer. These flowers are most commonly available as annuals, but perennial varieties are available as well.
A short plant, the night scented stock reaches about 18 inches (45 cm) tall, with a similar spread. Flowers remain closed during the day and might even appear withered, but as evening approaches, the flowers open, revealing blossoms of about three-fourths of an inch (2 cm) wide. Each of these flowers has four petals and might be lavender, white or pink.
Most often, the night scented stock is selected for its fragrance. The scent is often compared to cloves or vanilla. This fragrance becomes stronger when the flowers open in the evening. Gardeners aren’t the only ones attracted to the scent. Butterflies, bees and birds are drawn to the flower as well.
When a night scented stock is planted outdoors, the seeds should be sprinkled in clumps or troughs after spring’s last frost. Light frost will not harm the seedlings and is no concern. In warmer regions where frost is unlikely, seeds can be sown in the fall. Seeds also can be planted indoors, making concerns over late frost irrelevant.
After the seeds have sprouted, the plants should be spread about 1 foot (30 cm) apart. For best results, seeds should be sown in an area with good drainage and plenty of sunlight. Night scented stock is a hardy plant, preferring cool climates, and it does not thrive in very hot weather.
Little maintenance is required for these plants. They require regular watering, but care should be taken to avoid over-watering. No other care is needed, making them ideal for novice gardeners.
These flowers make a lovely smelling addition to gardens and flower beds. They also grow well in containers and can add fragrance to a balcony or deck. Many gardeners choose to place these plants near seating areas to better enjoy the scent.
During the day, night scented stock might appear a bit drab compared to other flowerbed favorites, especially during the day. For that reason, it is often planted with other flowers to combine the strong fragrance with a bright display. Gardeners might choose to stretch the flower’s blooming season by sowing seeds over an extended period.