Sarcococca hookeriana var. hookeriana

sweetbox

  • © VanDusen Botanical Garden

Outstanding Qualities

The genus Sarcococca includes a handful of such outstanding evergreen shrubs, there is room for at least one in all but the hottest, sunniest gardens. All are noted for their superb winter fragrance, which floats on the breeze in January and February. This intoxicating perfume of sweet vanilla comes from its tiny, inconspicuous white flowers. spreading slowly by suckers to form a colony, Sarcococca hookeriana var. hookeriana reaches 4 feet high in rich soil, bearing branches of willowy, midgreen leaves. Sweet box thrives in shade, where its leaf color is deepest green. It tolerates dry conditions once established, making it a good choice for under eaves and in dark, dry locations. Keep it out of hot afternoon sun or the leaves will yellow and scorch.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: shrub

Foliage Type: evergreen

Plant Height: 3 ft. 0 in. (0.91 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 4 ft. 0 in. (1.22 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 6 ft. 0 in. (1.83 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 8 ft. 0 in. (2.44 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 open 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.