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What is a Stock Plant?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A stock plant is a plant which is used for propagation. There are a number of ways to utilize stock plants, depending on the plant being grown. Nurseries usually maintain a large library of stock plants which they use to cultivate plants for their customers, as do commercial growers of flowers and crops. Stock plants are sometimes known as “mother plants,” referencing their important role in the process of plant propagation.

One of the simplest uses of a stock plant is in propagation by seed. In this case, seeds are collected from the stock plant to ensure that high quality plants which are true to the cultivar will be produced from the seeds. Stock plants can also be used as a source of cuttings for propagation, along with a source of grafts, bulbs, and other vegetative matter which can be used for propagation. Asexual plant propagation is often used to control quality and outcome, with exemplars of a desired cultivar being cloned over and over again to produce plants for sale.

In order to be used as a stock plant, a plant needs to possess certain traits. From a horticultural perspective, it needs to be a proved and reliable performer which is of high quality. It also needs to be free of disease; if a stock plant becomes diseased, all of the plants propagated from it can potentially have the disease as well. Healthy stock is especially critical in agriculture, where cuttings from a diseased plant could cause an infection to destroy an entire crop.

Home gardeners may use stock to propagate plants for their gardens and those of friends. They should take care to use healthy plants of high quality, and to maintain stock plants in healthy, controlled conditions to avoid the introduction of plant diseases and pests which could spread to other plants. It is also a good idea to inspect any plants, seeds, cuttings, and so forth cultivated from a stock plant and given away to confirm that they are healthy.

The term “stock plant” is also used sometimes to refer to rootstock. Rootstock is a system of hardy roots and a partial trunk to which another plant or tree can be grafted. Viticulturists often use rootstock to grow delicate grapes in harsh climates, relying on the robust nature of the rootstock to support the plant. Rootstock is also used for growing many tree fruits such as apples and peaches.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Perdido — On Jun 27, 2011

@wavy58 - I have some tips for you on how to make a rose bush cutting survive. First, when you make the cutting, remove all the leaves except two at the top to allow for photosynthesis.

You did right by soaking the cutting in water until you had time to put it in the soil. The one crucial step that you missed is applying a hormone growth powder called root tone. This powder encourages growth and helps the cutting survive.

If you decide to try these steps, please let me know if your rose bush survives. I have always had success with root tone.

By wavy58 — On Jun 25, 2011

I have an absolutely beautiful rose bush that I ordered from a plant catalog. Its blooms are a delicate mix of peach and yellow. I really wanted to use it as a stock plant and give cuttings to my friends, as well as plant more throughout my yard.

I tried taking cuttings from the new growth at the top of the bush by slicing a branch at a 45 degree angle. I put the cutting in water until I could plant it in the soil. However, the cutting died in two weeks. I guess I will just have to order another rose bush.

By lighth0se33 — On Jun 22, 2011

@Oceana - Lilies and chrysanthemums do very well when used as stock plants. With both kinds, you will have to establish the stock plants for about two to three years before you start dividing and transplanting.

Lilies actually need to be divided every three years, unless you want gigantic sprays. When the lilies begin to resurface in spring, you can wait until they are about six inches tall and then transplant them carefully to a new home.

Chrysanthemums do well when divided also. You can dig up the entire stock plant and separate the roots to obtain new plants for your garden.

By Oceana — On Jun 21, 2011

I maintain stock plants at my parents' house both to spread around their yard and to beautify my own. I started gardening several years ago. I planted a giant variety of zinnia that surprised me with beautiful color combinations. I have used the seed from those same zinnias both to build my new garden at my house and to cover other areas of my parents' yard.

I would like to venture into growing perennials that I can divide and transplant. Does anyone have any suggestions for plants that do well when divided and moved to another location?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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