Pronounced: sar-ko-KOAK-ah kon-FU-sa
Sunset zones: 4-9, 14-24.
USDA zones: 7-9.
Heat zones: 9-6.
Height 3-5 feet (1-1.5 m).
Width: 3 feet (1 m).
January-March, sometimes as early as December.
Clusters of five, small, white, very fragrant flowers, followed by black berries.
Alternate, elliptic, surface undulating, glossy, green, evergreen leaves.
Deep or partial shade.
Humus rich, fertile, moist, well-drained soil.
Side dress with compost or manure. Fertilize in spring with a complete organic fertilizer.
Sow seed into containers in spring or autumn and place in cold frame.
Cuttings in summer.
During mid-spring prune dead or damaged branches. Prune for symmetry after flowering.
Pests and Diseases:
No problems to speak of.
Rainy Side Notes
I love to pronounce the name of this genus--Sarcococca. It's one of those words that bounces around the mouth and quickly slips out like a giggle--sar-ko-KOAK-ah. Sometimes I wish we had more words like this, but I would be too busy playing with them and not getting my work done.
The best part about growing Sarcococca is that it blooms in winter, and when you walk by, the fragrance gives a knock on the olfactory nerve. It makes you want to breathe in deep the wonderful scent. The first time I smelled it, I was in the garden at Heronswood Nursery. The fragrance caught my attention, and I went in search of what flower was giving itself away in the middle of winter. To my surprise, it was a very small, almost inconspicuous white flower on a Sweet box shrub. The glossy black berries caught my eye also. I had to have this wonderful fragrance to brighten my winter. Therefore, it came to pass the shrubs came to live in my garden. Every winter it reminds me what a joy it is for my nose to have this shrub.
Introduced to cultivation in 1916, it is believed the species comes from China where seed was collected in 1908.
Its common name, Sweet box, may have been received because it's in the boxwood family. At least Sarcococca does not have the smell of dirty sweat socks when it gets wet, unlike its cousins, the boxwoods. S. confusa has more fragrance than another Sarcococca species--hookeriana.
Photographed in author's garden.