Pronounced: sar-ko-KOAK-ah kon-FU-sa
Sunset zones: 4-9, 14-24.
USDA zones: 7-9.
Heat zones: 9-6.
Height 3-5 feet (1-1.5 m).
Width: 3 feet (1 m).
January-March, sometimes as early as December.
Clusters of five, inconspicuous, creamy-white blushed with pink, fragrant flowers, and long stamens that have snow white filaments and creamy-white anthers. Black berries follow the flowers.
Alternate, elliptic, surface undulating, glossy, green, evergreen leaves.
Deep or partial shade.
Humus rich, fertile, moist, well-drained soil.
Side dress with compost or manure. Fertilize in spring with a complete organic fertilizer.
Sow seed into containers in spring or autumn and place in cold frame.
Cuttings in summer.
During mid-spring prune dead or damaged branches. Prune for symmetry after flowering.
Pests and Diseases:
No problems to speak of.
Rainy Side Notes
I love to pronounce the name of this genus—Sarcococca. It's one of those words that bounces around the mouth and quickly slips out like a giggle—sar-ko-KOAK-ah. Sometimes I wish we had more words like this, but I would be too busy playing with them and not getting my work done.
The best part about Sarcococca is that it blooms in winter. When you walk in the garden, Sarcococca's fragrance gives such a knock on the olfactory nerve, you will want to take a deep breathe of the wonderful scent. The first time I caught a whiff of it, I was in the garden at Heronswood Nursery in January. The fragrance caught my attention and I went in search of what flower gave itself away in the middle of winter. To my surprise, it was a very small, almost inconspicuous white flower on the sweet box shrub. The glossy black berries caught my eye also. I had to have this wonderful fragrance for my winter garden! The genus of shrubs came to live in my garden. In the dead of winter, its sweet scent reminds me what a joy it is to have this shrub blooming in the garden.
Introduced to cultivation in 1916, the first species came from China where seed was collected in 1908.
Its common name, sweet box, comes from it being in the boxwood family. Unlike other boxwoods, Sarcococca doesn’t have the smell of dirty sweat socks or cat pee when it gets wet. S. confusa has more fragrance than another Sarcococca species—hookeriana.
Photographed in author's garden.