Sarcococca ruscifolia


  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

Few shrubs reach their peak in the middle of winter, but that is precisely when Sarcococca ruscifolia begins to shine. Tiny white flowers hidden amongst its glossy, dark-green foliage, open to release a delightful perfume of sweet vanilla. The perfume wafts in the winter air from January through February and brings to mind the smells of a Swedish bakery. Following flowering, small scarlet berries appear. This cool season charmer thrives in shade and tolerates dry shade once it is established. Place this shrub near shady entrances to revel in the winter fragrance. It can be used as a single specimen threaded among an evergreen border or planted in drifts to maximize its floral fragrance. It also thrives in woodland settings

Quick Facts

Plant Type: shrub

Foliage Type: evergreen

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

Plant Width/Spread: 3 ft. 0 in. (0.91 meters)

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

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

Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 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.