Pick an outdoor plot that gets lots of sunlight. Make sure to choose a plot that gets full sun (12 hours is ideal). If you want to plant them near your house or any other structure, check the light in the morning and late afternoon to make sure the plot is fully exposed to the sun.
Night stocks love the sun but can deal with light shade if the soil is extra rich in nutrients.
The early spring (February through May) is the best time to start the seeds in the ground—night stocks thrive in temperatures between 60°F (15°C) to 80°F (27°C).
Use a garden fork to churn up the plot and remove any rocks. Stick a garden fork 8 inches (20 cm) down into the plot where you plan to plant the flowers and churn the dirt around. Be sure to pick out any rocks as you go.
Churning the soil like this disperses nutrients evenly and ensures good drainage.
You can also churn a few handfuls of compost into the dirt to rejuvenate it so your flowers have the best chance of growing quickly and staying healthy for longer. A 2 in (5.1 cm) layer should be enough.
Feel free to mix some fertilizer (a 6-9-6, 3-5-4, 2-8-4, or 10-30-20 blend) into the plot as well to rejuvenate the soil and boost the oncoming blooms. One cup (4.5 oz) is enough for every 10 square feet (1 meter) of soil.
Make several 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) deep grooves in the soil. Use the flat end of a garden rake to make a groove in the soil, running it straight from one end of the plot to the other. Push the blunt end into the soil so the groove is 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) deep.
It doesn't have to be precisely 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm), just make sure the groove is deep enough so the seeds have enough soil cover to take root.
You should be left with a small mound running alongside each groove.
If you’re making multiple grooves (for rows of flowers), make sure each row is at least 6 inches (15 cm) apart.
Disperse the seeds evenly into the grooves. Pour the seeds into your palm and use your thumb and forefinger to pinch a few of them at a time. Sprinkle them into the grooves as evenly as you can.
If you want to enjoy the sweet scent of your evening stocks longer, sow each row 1 or 2 weeks apart, starting in early April and ending in late May.
Don’t worry about spacing for now, just distribute the seeds as evenly as you can in a long line.
Cover the seeds with soil and tamp it down. Use a garden rake to cover the seeds with soil and then turn the rake's handle to a 90-degree angle and move it up and down to slightly compress the dirt on top.
You can also use your hand to push the mound of soil over the groove.
Water the freshly planted seeds. Fill a watering tin with water and pour it over the soil where you planted the seeds. It's best to use one that has a rose at the end of the spout. That way, the water is evenly dispersed, mimicking natural rain.
You can make your own rose watering tin using a large lidded jug. Just make 10 to 20 holes in the cap by hammering a nail through it.
Keep the soil moist for 3 to 4 weeks until the seeds sprout up. Stick your finger 1 inch (2.5 cm) to 2 inches (5.1 cm) into the soil to feel for moisture. If it's dry, water the soil evenly just as you did from the start. You should start to see green leaves sprout up after 2 to 3 weeks.
If you live in a warmer environment, you may start to see the seeds germinate as soon as 1 or 2 weeks.
Thin out the sprouts so each plant is 6 inches (15 cm) apart. Use a small hand shovel to dig out sections of each row. The two neighboring sections of the place that you dug out should be at least 6 inches (15 cm) apart.
This will allow each plant space to grow healthy roots so they’re not having to fight for nutrients in the soil.
The plants you dig up can be repotted in fresh soil or transplanted to a different garden plot.
Keep the soil moist and wait for flowers to appear. Stick your finger 2 inches (5.1 cm) into the soil to check for moisture every other day. If it feels dry, water the soil well, avoiding pouring water over the actual blooms. If it's still damp, wait 1 day and check again. You should start to see the blooms open at night about 6 to 8 weeks after the day you planted them.
If you live in an area with hot spring temperatures, you may need to check the soil every day.
It’s best to water the plants in the morning time so the stems have a chance to dry out in the sun. You can water them at night, but it’s risky because fungus could start to grow if the plants don’t dry out quickly enough.
Fill a small seed starting tray with moist potting soil. Choose a seed starting tray with at least 12 cells for a smaller garden plot and at least 24 for a larger one. Use potting soil made for flowers—an organic seed starting blend is perfect for night stock. Pack each cubby with soil all the way to the top (but not over the walls of each cell) and tamp it down with your fingers.
Most seed starting mixes contain peat moss, coir, and vermiculite, so check the back of the bag to make sure these are listed in the ingredients.
When it comes to the cell size of each tray, 2 in (5.1 cm) squares are a good size.
If you don’t want to have to fuss with getting the soil block out of the cells later on, use biodegradable (peat) trays that you can put right into the ground.
Some mixes also contain compost or worm castings—these are beneficial but not always necessary.
Wet the soil in each cubby. Hold your watering tin over the top of the seed tray and go over it about 4 times to make sure the soil in each cubby is wet. You may want to set the tray on a gardening table outside or on the ground.
It helps to use a watering tin with a rose attachment on the spout so the water hits the soil evenly (mimicking rainfall).
Place the seeds 1⁄4 inch (0.64 cm) into the soil. Poke your pinky into the center of each cell to make an indentation about 1⁄4 inch (0.64 cm) deep. Place 1 seed into each indentation.
You may want to pour the seeds into your palm and grab them that way instead of fishing through the seed packet.
Put the tray in a warm, sunny spot. Place the tray on a windowsill or a sunny spot in a greenhouse if you have one. If you live in a super dry area, increase the humidity by putting the tray inside of a large plastic zipper bag and then setting it in the sun.
The warmer and more humid the air is around the seeds, the quicker they'll germinate.
Keep the soil moist until the sprouts are 2 inches (5.1 cm) tall. Check the soil with your fingers every day to check for moisture. If it's dry, go ahead and dampen the soil. The sprouts should grow to be 2 inches (5.1 cm) tall in 2 to 3 weeks.
The soil shouldn't be sopping wet, just evenly moist.
Dig holes in an outdoor plot 3 in (7.6 cm) deep and 6 inches (15 cm) apart. Use a hand shovel to dig small holes 6 inches (15 cm) apart. Make them deep enough to fit the cell into the ground so that the base of the seeding is in line with the rest of the plot.
If the tray's cells are only 2 inches (5.1 cm) wide, feel free to just use 2 or 3 fingers to poke holes in the soil.
Transfer the plants into the ground and tamp down the soil. Squeeze the base and sides of the tray to loosen the soil from the tray. The idea is to remove soil around the base of the plant in 1 block so the roots system isn't disturbed. Once you put each sprout into the ground, tamp down the soil around each one.
If you're using a biodegradable (peat) tray that can be planted right into the ground, you don't have to wiggle the plant and dirt out of the tray. Just break the individual cells apart and plan to plant them as is.
Try planting your seedlings in a pot if you'd prefer. Choose a wide 12 in (30 cm) pot to fit up to 3 sprouts inside. Fill the pot with soil until it comes up to 2 inches (5.1 cm) below the rim. Use a hand shovel to dig 3 small holes into the dirt 6 inches (15 cm) apart and insert a sprout into each one. Tamp down the dirt around the spouts with your fingers to hold them in place.
Choose a potting soil that has a pH between 6.3 and 6.7—annual blooms like a near-neutral environment.
If you’re using a round pot, planting the sprouts in the shape of a triangle is the easiest way to fit all 3 and give them adequate room.
If you plan to fill the pot with soil from your outdoor garden, add a 2 in (5.1 cm) layer of compost or fertilizer (or both!) to the soil to increase the nutrients.
You can use any shape of pot you like, just make sure each sprout has 6 inches (15 cm) of room.
Keep the soil moist and wait 4 to 6 weeks to see the blooms. Night scented stocks love water, so check the soil at least every other day or every day. If it feels dry 2 inches (5.1 cm) below the surface, water it well.
If it's super hot where you live, you may need to water the plot every day.
Water the flowers every 1 or 2 days to keep the soil moist. Stick your finger 2 inches (5.1 cm) down into the soil to check it for moisture. If it feels dry (that is, if the dirt can flake off of your finger tip) give it a good watering, going over the entire plot 4 times. If it’s still a little damp, wait another day before checking the soil again.
You may need to water them more often during hot, sunny days.
If you have a few cool or overcast days in a row, you may only need to check the soil and water them once every 2 days or so. The soil is the best indicator of when they’re thirsty.
Fertilize the plants every 6 to 8 weeks with a balanced granular fertilizer. Sprinkle a handful of balanced fertilizer (10-10-10 or 5-10-5 blends are good choices) over the soil before you water the plants. Check the back of the bag to see exactly how much you should use according to the size of the plot. Continue to fertilize the plants every 6 to 8 weeks and stop fertilizing them in the fall.
You can use water-soluble fertilizer spray but the nutrients will leak out of the soil faster, which means you’ll have to apply it more often (every 7 to 14 days).
Prune any withered blooms and leaves to bring on more flowers. Pinch the stem just below any dead or shriveling blooms with your fingers, pick them off, and put them in a compost pile or bin if you have one. This will promote more blooms to grow as the weeks pass.
Don’t let any dropped blooms (or any other plant material) sit on the ground under the flowers because it may invite pests and fungus.
If you see any seed pods growing on the blooms, let them dry out on the plant and then crack them open. Now you have more seeds to grow more lovely flowers!
Spray the blooms and stems with neem oil to get rid of aphids. If you see any small pale bugs on the leaves or blooms, it’s best to get rid of them as soon as you can. To make your own aphid spray, combine 1 teaspoon (4.9 mL) of cold-pressed neem oil, 1⁄3 teaspoon (1.6 mL) of insecticidal soap, and 32 fluid ounces (950 mL) of warm water in a spray bottle. Shake it up and spray the flowers with it.
Shake the bottle between sprays to ensure the mixture is well blended.
Neem oil won't hurt bees or butterflies, just the bugs that eat away at the plant tissue.
Prevent fungus from growing with a baking soda solution. Fungus is commonly caused by dropped leaves or blooms releasing fungal spores as they decay. Mix 1 tbsp (15 g) of baking soda in 128 fluid ounces (3,800 mL) of water in a large jug and shake it up. Pour it into a spray bottle and spritz the flowers and stems once a week or once every 2 weeks as a preventative measure.
Baking soda won't kill the fungus, but it changes the pH on the leaves of the plant and makes it hard for fungus to grow once it drops and starts to decay.
Remember to always pick up any dropped plant matter when you deadhead or check on the garden plot.
You can use chlorothalonil, a chemical fungicide, but it’s not a good idea since it’s been linked to a fatal gut infection in bees.