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Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis is often confused with:
Buxus sempervirens Buxus sempervirens
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Salvia rosmarinus Rosmarinus officinalis
Sarcococca confusa Sarcococca confusa
Skimmia japonica Form

Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis

Previously known as:

  • Sarcococca humilis
Phonetic Spelling
sar-ko-KOK-a hook-er-e-A-na HU-mi-lis
Description

The Himalayan sweet box is a dwarf, compact, low-growing, broadleaf evergreen shrub in the Buxaceae or boxwood family. It spreads by underground stems to form a colony. The shrub has fragrant creamy white blooms in late winter to early spring that hide under foliage. The leaves are glossy, leathery, lanceolate, and dark green with sharp tips. Showy black fruits appear after the flowers fade.

This shrub is native to the western Himalayas and China.

The genus name, Sarcocococca, is Greek from the word sarkos, which means "flesh" and kokkos, which means "berry."    Humilis is Latin for "low-growing." The epithet, hookeriana, is named in honor of Sir Joseph Hooker.

The Himalayan sweet box prefers part shade to full shade, rich, moist, well-drained, and acidic soils. The full sun causes the leaves to lose their luster, but the plant is tolerant of the full sun when accompanied by moist soil. Plants, that have been well established, appear to be more drought tolerant. Pruning is needed in the spring after blooming to maintain the shrub's shape.

The Himalayan sweet box is a tough plant and can be used in deeply shady areas, particularly under trees. It may also be used as a border or low hedge. The shrub would be lovely in groups as a filler or background, in a woodland garden setting, or a naturalized landscape. 

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Late Winter or Early Spring    Foliage:  Year-round     Fruits:  Summer and Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • compact, low-growing, dense, broadleaf evergreen, measuring 1 to 2 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide
  • leaves are narrow, simple, alternate, sharp tips, entire margins, shiny dark green above, and paler on the undersides
  • fragrant, small creamy-white flowers without petals, blooming in late winter or early spring
  • small, shiny, oval red drupes that turn black as they mature
  • green stems are foul-smelling when bruised

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: This shrub has no serious insect or disease problems. It may be susceptible to boxwood blight.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

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Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#fragrant flowers#white flowers#shade garden#broadleaf evergreen#winter interest#dwarf#showy fruits#hedges#cpp#flowering shrub#low growing plant#red fruits#groundcover#naturalizes#border planting#black fruits#naturalized area#small group plantings#patio planting#heavy shade tolerant#woodland garden#container plant#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#fragrant flowers#white flowers#shade garden#broadleaf evergreen#winter interest#dwarf#showy fruits#hedges#cpp#flowering shrub#low growing plant#red fruits#groundcover#naturalizes#border planting#black fruits#naturalized area#small group plantings#patio planting#heavy shade tolerant#woodland garden#container plant#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Sarcococca
    Species:
    hookeriana
    Family:
    Buxaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ground Cover
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • 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)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    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 are small, globose, shiny, black berry-like drupes. They measure about 0.25 inches in diameter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are small fragrant, creamy-white blooms that lack petals. The male flower has pink anthers, and the female flower has two styles. They typically bloom in late winter to early spring.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are alternate, simple, oblong to lanceolate with entire margins. They have slender sharp tips and are shiny dark green on the upper surface and paler beneath. They measure 2 to 3.5 inches long.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stem is slender, green, slightly pubescent, and foul-smelling when bruised.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Shade Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Hedge
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heavy Shade