Kelways Guide to Sarcococcas
Sarcococcas (commonly known as Sweet Box or Christmas Box) are an absolute must for every garden. Evergreen, they offer year-round interest, but their particular beauty is in the sweet fragrance of the flowers it produces over a long period from late autumn right through the winter and into spring.
Ideally suited to a more shady position, they make for excellent structural plants in the border as they do not grow too large but also an interesting plant for pots either side of the door where you can delight in their heavenly fragrance every time you walk past.
How to Grow Sarcococcas
Sarcococcas prefer a partially shaded position and a rich, moderately fertile soil that doesn’t dry out in the summer. If growing in a pot, use John Innes No 3 compost. When planting, incorporate lots of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or leafmould. Once established, they are pretty self-reliant and require very little input. A spring feed of a slow release granular fertiliser is ideal, preferably one of those suitable for Camellias and Rhododendrons.
They are very rarely bothered by pests and generally require no pruning, though if you do want to prune them, the best time to do this is in the spring once they have finished flowering
What’s in the Name?
The word Sarcococca comes from the Greek for ‘Fleshy Berry’ referring to the fruits borne after flowering.
Some of our Favourite Sarcococcas
One of the larger growing varieties, this can attain a height of up to 2m. With wavy, dark green, glossy leaves it produces creamy white, strongly scented flowers in winter followed by black fruits. Sarcococca confusa has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
A compact form growing to around 60cm with glossy dark green leaves producing small clusters of highly fragrant white flowers in winter with crimson anthers followed by black berries
A small evergreen shrub with glossy dark green, lance-shaped leaves on purple stems, producing small, delicately scented light red and white flowers in winter. Sarcococca hookeriana var digyna Purple Stem has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
A small, slow-growing evergreen shrub with glossy, oval dark green leaves producing small, fragrant white flowers in winter followed by dark red berries
A dense, upright shrub growing to around 70cm in height with glossy, dark green leaves, producing fragrant white flowers in winter, opening up from red buds and followed by spherical fruits ripening from red to black.