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Dwarf Sweet Box

Dwarf Sweet Box

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 24 inches

Spread: 3 feet


Hardiness Zone: 6b

Other Names: Dwarf Christmas Box


This attractive prostrate, dwarf shrub offers deep green glossy foliage and sweetly fragrant blooms in the dead of winter, unlike most species; flowering is followed by red berries that turn black over summer and persist until the following winter

Ornamental Features

Dwarf Sweet Box is primarily grown for its highly ornamental fruit. It features an abundance of magnificent black berries in early summer. It has attractive dark green foliage. The glossy pointy leaves are highly ornamental and remain dark green throughout the winter. It features dainty clusters of fragrant creamy white flowers along the branches from early fall to late winter.

Landscape Attributes

Dwarf Sweet Box is a dense multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with a mounded form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This shrub will require occasional maintenance and upkeep, and should only be pruned after flowering to avoid removing any of the current season’s flowers. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Dwarf Sweet Box is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Mass Planting
  • General Garden Use
  • Groundcover
  • Container Planting

Planting & Growing

Dwarf Sweet Box will grow to be about 24 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 3 feet. It has a low canopy. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 30 years.

This shrub does best in partial shade to shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil pH, but grows best in rich soils. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

Dwarf Sweet Box makes a fine choice for the outdoor landscape, but it is also well-suited for use in outdoor pots and containers. It can be used either as ‘filler’ or as a ‘thriller’ in the ‘spiller-thriller-filler’ container combination, depending on the height and form of the other plants used in the container planting. Note that when grown in a container, it may not perform exactly as indicated on the tag – this is to be expected. Also note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

JC Raulston Arboretum


The quest for plants which hold up throughout all four seasons can be long and frustrating. Many plants are not looking their best during the dog days of summer, while others shed leaves or retreat below ground during the winter. sweet box or Sarcococca is one plant which can take it all. The genus is comprised of about 18 species from the Himalayas and southeast Asia and are related to boxwoods.

Undoubtedly the most popular and most cold hardy is the dwarf Himalayan sweet box, S. hookeriana var. humilis often listed simply as S. humilis. This tough, evergreen, woody ground cover (to 16″ tall) can quickly spread by underground stems to form dense weed-blocking mats. Like all of the sweet boxes, the flowers are only marginally attractive as they are mostly hidden by the glossy, 3″ leaves. There is no hiding the heady fragrance in late winter or early spring when the flowers open, though. The sweet smell wafts through the garden leading the unknowing on a scavenger hunt for the perpetrator. Small blue-black fruits follow the flowers over the summer. The Himalayan sweet box, S. hookeriana var. hookeriana, is a much larger shrub growing to the relatively giant size of 4’–5′. It does sucker like its diminutive relative, but at a much more restrained rate. In other respects, it is very similar to the dwarf form as is the variety digyna which has narrowly pointed leaves.

The ruscus-leaved sweet box, S. ruscifolia, does not spread like its Himalayan cousins, but is evergreen and flowers in the early spring. The 3′ wide and tall shrub is composed of arching branches which bear small (2″) pointed, dark, glossy green leaves. The fragrant flowers are followed by dark maroon red fruits. This shrub, along with S. saligna or willow-leaved sweet box, is somewhat tender and is probably best in warmer coastal areas or in protected spots near a wall. The willow-leaved sweet box, as its name implies, has long 5″ narrow leaves on its arching stems. The shrub grows to about 3′ tall and can sucker to nearly twice as wide. The winter flowers are a bit greenish and belie their name by failing to be fragrant, but do win marks for their largish (0.5″) purple-black fruits. The only other sweet box regularly found in the nursery trade in the United States is the very hardy S. confusa. This sweet box lives up to expectations with exceptionally fragrant, late winter flowers on a non-suckering shrub that grows to over 5′ tall. The black fruits are often found still on the shrub when it flowers the next year.

Culture for sweet box is fairly simple. They all like a moist, well-drained soil which is high in organic matter. Full to partial shade is the optimum although they will grow in full sun. Full sun situations will almost invariably result in yellowing of the leaves, though. sweet box rarely needs pruning, but if necessary for shape, prune after flowering in mid-spring.

Sarcococca hook. hum. Fragrant Valley™ PP19942

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Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis Fragrant Valley


Fragrant Valley™ (‘SarSid1’) Sweetbox is also a very uniform selection from Canada, but its compact, thick habit is much lower growing, and makes a wonderful low evergreen groundcover. Its fragrant white flowers appear in spring over dark green shiny leaves, and its disease-resistant and deer-resistant qualities make it ideal for shady dry sites.


18 Inches


36 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone


Current Availability

Qty Avail Description Future Crop
0 Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis Fragrant Valley #1 75_75
0 Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis Fragrant Valley #2 300
0 Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis Fragrant Valley #3 125_125

Characteristics & Attributes


Deer Resistant
Erosion Control
Fragrant – Flower
Full Shade
Winter Containers
Winter Interest

Soil Conditions

Bloom Time


Full Shade
Partial Shade/Shade Tolerant

Dry Shade Tolerant
Foliage Color


Similar Plants to Sarcococca hook. hum. Fragrant Valley™ Hypericum calycinum
Aaronsbeard St. Johnswort Gaultheria procumbens
Creeping Wintergreen Vaccinium angustifolium
Lowbush Blueberry

Sarcococca Species, Christmas Box, Himalayan Sarcococca, Sweet Box

View this plant in a garden




Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Partial to Full Shade


Grown for foliage



Provides Winter Interest

Foliage Color:

Unknown – Tell us


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us



Bloom Color:

Pale Pink

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are fragrant

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing the rootball

From semi-hardwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Old Lyme, Connecticut

Wilmington, Delaware

Lula, Georgia

Louisville, Kentucky

Boston, Massachusetts

Port Chester, New York

Davidson, North Carolina

Oriental, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

Portland, Oregon

Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

Souderton, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Johnson City, Tennessee

Petersburg, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Ames Lake, Washington

Bellevue, Washington

Langley, Washington

Redmond, Washington

Sammamish, Washington

Seattle, Washington(2 reports)

Stanwood, Washington

Union Hill-Novelty Hill, Washington

Charles Town, West Virginia

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