Dwarf Sweetbox: Wonderfully Fragrant Winter Blossoms

Dwarf Sweetbox: Wonderfully Fragrant Winter Blossoms

Dwarf Sweetbox

Photo Compliments of Janet Dollamore

Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, or more commonly referred to as dwarf sweebox is a compact evergreen shrub that reaches a height of 12 to 24 inches. It has attractive lance-shaped to eleptical, leathery leaves in a thick growth of upright stems, with small, very fragrant white flowers produced in abundance in mid-to late winter.  Flowers are followed by small, glossy, black berries.

Flowers are unisexual, tubular, fragrant, white, reach a length of ½ inches, and bloom in the leaf axils. Female flowers give way to globose, shiny, black fruits (drupes to 1/3 inch wide). Dwarf sweetbox is a wonderful groundcover for your shade garden. The polished appearance of the dark green leaves create a clean-looking uniform appearance. Part of the charm of this plant is that it is tolerant of dry shade and urban conditions, and thrives with little care.

How To Make Your Dwarf Sweetbox Thrive

Dwarf Sweet box grows best in open to deep shade in locations protected from hot afternoon sun; leaves lose luster in full sun. It prefers organically rich, acidic, moist to well-drained soil, but will tolerate sandy locations and clay if the drainage is adequate. Once this plant is established it is drought tolerant. It should be noted that it is slow to become established, often taking a couple of years. Little pruning is required, nothing more than the occasional removal of dead or broken branches. In severe and sudden cold snaps it can defoliate, but it will leaf out in spring.

General Dwarf Sweetbox Information

Pests and Diseases

No serious insect or disease problems.


Easily propagated by semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer.  You can alos propagate by seed sown in containers outdoors in autumn or spring.

Dwarf Sweetbox: Garden Uses

Dwarf sweetbox is a perfect high ground cover for shade; this evergreen looks wonderful in the woodland garden, near an entryway, as a shrub border, or as a low hedge. Wonderfully fragrant winter blossoms are a bonus.

Quick Facts

  • Family: Buxaceae
  • Common Name: Dwarf Sweetbox
  • Type: Broadleaf evergreen
  • Growth Habit: Compact
  • Hardiness Zones: Zones 6 to 8
  • Height: 18 to 24 inches
  • Bloom Time: Mid-winter
  • Bloom Description: White
  • Flower: Fragrant
  • Sun: Part shade to full shade
  • Water: Medium
  • Maintenance: Medium
  • Key Features: Deer Resistant
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Special Features: Deer resistant, dwarf plant, improved pest and disease resistance, showy fruit
  • Landscape Uses: Border, hedge, woodland garden

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  1. This is such a useful woodland plant. And it sure packs a punch for its size with fragrance.
    rusty duck recently posted..Blooming JanuaryMy Profile

  2. In the Healing Garden we use two varieties of sarcococca as a border plant. Thank you for helping us with the botanical name for this dwarf sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis). In the South Healing Garden, this forms a small Southern border in the upper terrace. True, the leaves ‘bleach out’ in full sun. However, the plant thrives, and as other plantings become established the sweetbox will be afforded the afternoon shade it prefers. Texture of foliage, attractive long lasting decorative fruit, drought tolerance, hardiness in public places, and a fragrance that is synonymous with Chinook Spring in the North Pacific. A welcome emigre from the Himalayas and hillsides of Asia. – The Healing Garden gardener
    Healing Garden gardener recently posted..The Need to GrowMy Profile

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