Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis

dwarf sweetbox

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

Small, evergreen, shade-loving shrubs are hard to find in the Northwest, but this sweetbox fits the bill with its fragrant white flowers in early spring and blue-black berries in summer. This plant may also be used as a ground cover.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: shrub

Foliage Type: evergreen

Plant Height: 1 ft. 6 in. (0.46 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 2 ft. 0 in. (0.61 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 2 ft. 0 in. (0.61 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 4 ft. 0 in. (1.22 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 to 9

Flower Color: white

Sun/Light Exposure: light, open, dappled, or deep shade

Water Requirements: drought tolerant once established, but appreciates occasional water during very long dry spells

Seasonal Interest: tiny fragrant flowers in winter along with year-round dark evergreen foliage

Resistant to: deer

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: red, purple, silver, gold

Great Color Partners: dark green, white, variegated

Culture Notes
Sweet box grows best in light to deep shade in locations protected from hot afternoon sun. It prefers a rich moist to well-drained soil, but will tolerate sandy locations and clay if the drainage is adequate. Once established it is drought tolerant, but appreciates occasional watering during long, dry spells. It is slow to become established, often taking a couple of years to settle in. Little pruning is needed other than the occasional removal of dead or broken branches. In severe and sudden cold snaps it can defoliate, but it will leaf out in spring.