One of the first flowers of the year is Sweet Box, Sarcococca.

The flowers may go unnoticed as they are rather small and hidden amongst dark glossy leaves, but their scent will grab you. On sunny winter days (yes we do have some of those in Portland) the sweet fragrance they are named for fills the air.

sarcoccca confusa

Sarcococca confusa: Christmas Box

Sweet smelling flowers are enough to make us love a plant forever, but Sarcococca keeps on giving. It’s dark, glossy, evergreen leaves, bird-attracting berries, comfort in shady gardens (even in dry shade!) and pest-free nature clinch the deal. We’re all in.

White flowers in January, red berries in fall turn black. Grows 3-5’ x 3-5’ if left alone but it can easily be pruned into a lower hedge (see below). Shade-part shade, Z7 (0-10f)

sarcococca ruscifolia

Sarcococca hookeriana humilis: Himalayan Sweet Box

White flowers in January are a bit later than and not as fragrant as S. confusa. Black berries. It slowly forms a nice evergreen mat, spreading by underground roots. Plants grown from cuttings can vary in mature size — typical growth is around 10-12” tall x 2-3’ wide, but plants can grow as tall as 2-3’. Recently new varieties have been release that are more uniform in their habits.

‘Fragrant Mountain’ grows 2’ x 3’

‘Fragrant Valley’ grows 18” x 36”

All thrive in shade to part shade and once established, like dry shade.

Hardy Z6 (-10-0f)


Sarcococca ruscifolia: Sweet Box

Sarcococca ruscifolia is like in almost every way to S. confusa. The major difference is fruit color – S. ruscifolia has red berries rather than black. It also grows a bit larger, to 5’ x 5’. Shade, Z7