Sweet Box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis)

Day before yesterday was a stunning spring day, warming up to nearly 65 F, so I opened the front door to let fresh air circulate through the screened storm door.  After a while I noticed a lovely fragrance drifting in.  The Sweet Box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis) out front is blooming.  The flowers are described as “insignificant” but the fragrance can be quite powerful on warm winter and spring days.  For me, this is one of the first signs that spring is coming, sometimes noticeable on warm days in December or January.

Sweet Box on both sides of sidewalk from driveway and far side of sidewalk from street, 6 May 2010

Sweet Box under Weeping Cherry, 8 May 2011

Sweet box is a short (12-24 inch tall) slowly spreading evergreen.  Its charms are subtle and understated, but I really enjoy this plant.  Most of the year, it provides a lush green background on both sides of the front door of the house here at the Garden in the Woods.  The blooms are very small, but leave a tantalizing scent on the air.  During warm spells in winter, and the very earliest days of spring, that scent drifts on the air, enticing us outside even when it’s too early or wet to plant.  The flowers develop into dark berries, adding a little more subtle color later in the season.

Sweet Box, showing flowers and last year's berries, 1 March 2012

The Garden in the Woods provides an idea location for Sweet Box — plenty of shade and moisture.  The large planting here was probably put in during the 1980’s when the front and west end of the house were professionally landscaped.  I’m very glad to have inherited this lovely foundation plant and have plans for spreading its babies around the yard over time.

This plant is native to the Himalayas and hardy in USDA zones 7-9.  It’s also highly deer resistant here in the Garden in the Woods and very tolerant of clay soil.

East of Front Door
West of Front Door, Lawn to Sidewalk
West of Front Door, Sidewalk to House



Filed under Gardening

2 responses to “Sweet Box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis)

  1. It looks absolutely lovely – and so does your house and property! Sweetbox is a shrub that is totally new to me – I’ll have to keep my eyes (and nose) open for it.


  2. Sweet Box is my favorite shade evergreen shrub. I have never seen a mass planting like you have as ground cover. Amazing, thank you for sharing.


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