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Sweet Box Sarcococca confusa

Other Common Name(s):

Other plants called Sweet Box:

Phonetic Spelling
sar-ko-KOH-a con-FU-sa
Description

The fragrant sarcococca is a bushy broadleaf evergreen shrub that measures 3 to 5 feet tall and as wide. The shrub is mounding with upright arching green stems. It has a loose form in youth and becomes densely branched and rounded with age. Tiny creamy-white flowers bloom in the winter and have a sweet vanilla fragrance. The foliage is glossy, wavy, and dark green. After flowering shiny red berries appear that transition to black and may persist through winter. It is a member of the Buxaceae or boxwood family.

Fragrant sarcococca is believed to be a native of China. There is some confusion about its origin. Since it has not been seen in the wild, it is believed that it may be a hybrid of two Chinese species.

The genus name, Sarcococca, originates from the words sarco, meaning "flesh," and kokkos, meaning "berry." The epithet, confusa, means "confused" and references their being confused with other species.

This shrub prefers full to partial shade and tolerates most soil and pH types. They need moist, well-drained soil and are hardy in zones 6 through 9. They have a slow to moderate growth rate. The shrub is resistant to deer and rabbits and is tolerant of pollution and drought if planted in the shade.

Consider the fragrant sarcococca for winter flowering interest in the landscape. They may be used as a border, hedge, screening, patio, or lining a walkway. The year-round green shrub, scented winter flowers, and berries would be a lovely addition to a home garden. 

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Winter            Foliage:  Year-round             Fruit: Summer to Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • densely branched broadleaf evergreen shrub, 3 to 5 feet tall and as wide
  • glossy, leathery, dark green, lanceolate to elliptic leaves with undulated or wavy margins, undersides are lighter green
  • clusters of tiny, fragrant, creamy-white flowers without petals that bloom during the winter
  • shiny red drupes that transition to black and are present in the summer through the winter months

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: There are no serious insect or disease problems.

VIDEO created by Ryan Contreras for “Landscape Plant Materials I:  Deciduous Hardwoods and Conifers or Landscape Plant Materials II:  Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University

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Hydrangeas in the Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#fragrant flowers#white flowers#shrub#broadleaf evergreen#low maintenance#winter interest#cottage garden#rabbit resistant#hedges#deer resistant#glossy leaves#children's garden#red fruits#rounded#screening#black fruits#glossy fruits#shade border#walkway planting#patio planting#winter flowers#winter garden#container plant#dense growth#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#fragrant flowers#white flowers#shrub#broadleaf evergreen#low maintenance#winter interest#cottage garden#rabbit resistant#hedges#deer resistant#glossy leaves#children's garden#red fruits#rounded#screening#black fruits#glossy fruits#shade border#walkway planting#patio planting#winter flowers#winter garden#container plant#dense growth#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Sarcococca
    Species:
    confusa
    Family:
    Buxaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China
    Play Value:
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Shade
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Dense
    Erect
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits ripen one year later. They are shiny, oval, measure 0.25 inches long, and are initially red and then turn black. The drupes may persist through the winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Winter
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Tiny, creamy-white fragrant flowers bloom from late January to February. They are not showy and lack petals. There are male and female blooms. The male bloom has 4 sepals, measures 1/8 inch long, and has creamy-colored anthers that exceed beyond the bloom. The female flowers have 4 to 6 sepals, measure 3/16 inches long, and have 2 to 3 styles. The flowers are vanilla-scented.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are alternate, simple, lanceolate to elliptic, and measure about 1.25-2 inches long and 0.5 to 0.75 inches wide. They are glossy, leathery, dark green on the upper surface, and lighter green beneath. The margins are undulate or wavy.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The young stems are green.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Patio
    Walkways
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Garden for the Blind
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Pollution
    Rabbits