Sweet box (Sarcococca ruscifolia )

Sarcococca ruscifolia planted under trees

Sarcococca ruscifolia (Sweet box). Zones 6-9, Sunset 14-24. Irregular shape dense shrub 4-6 ft high x 3-7 ft spread. Glossy dark evergreen leaves common for the species, densely set with wavy edge, which give somewhat rough texture to the shrub. White small flowers set densely in leaves axils very inconspicuous with strong pleasant fragrance spreading through the chilly air during the late winter-spring months. Attractive red berries to follow. Preferred shady location inland to semi-shade in coastal areas. Moderate watering with plenty of organic matter, mulch heavily to preserve moisture. Useful shrub under the lower-branching evergreen trees, between tall buildings, flank shaded entryway or plant close to window/entryways – to enjoy the fragrance and strong architectural lines, great specimen plant against the light colored background – may be espaliered along the wall or used as a hideaway for your conditioner unit or whatever you need to screen from the view in shady location. Deer resistant, with practically no pest or diseases, sometimes infested by scales – easy to control – spray with light horticultural oil to smother.

Plant profile summary:

Name Sarcococca ruscifolia (Sweet box)
Zone/ Sunset Zone 6-9, Sunset 14-24
Type: Shrub
Size/shape: 4 x 5 ft, somewhat rough and irregular, with branches spread upward to horizontal.
Life Span: Long lived
Foliage/ Flower/ Fruits Type/ Color Evergreen dense/ leaves 2-3.5 in long 1-1.5 in wide deep green, elliptic with wavy edge, Small inconspicuous white flowers – fragrant. Red fruits.
Sun/ wind Exposure: Shade inland BA/could take part shade coastal BA, no salt spray though.
Water requirements: Moderate, mulch heavily to preserve the moisture and minimize watering
Soil requirements: Acidic to slightly acidic, plenty of organic matter, good drainage, mulch heavily to preserve the moisture
Use: Under-story, Woodland planting, Overhang, entryways, foundation planting, specimen or container planting, screen
Attractions – special features: Winter flowering great fragrance, evergreen, deer resistant, can grow in full shade!
Pests / Diseases: N/A, sometimes infested by scales – easy to control – spray with light horticultural oil to smother.
Trimming: If you’d like to give it more regular shape – in early spring or after flowering in late spring. Do not use electrical trimmer – pruners are best for the job