A Garden Stranger with a Strange Name

Author: Hayes Jackson, Longleaf Botanical Gardens Liaison

Sarcococca, also known as Sweet-box, is a durable evergreen shrub related to the ever-popular boxwood. There are several species from Asia that are garden worthy in central Alabama, but nurseries seem to shy away from these shade and heat tolerant shrubs because they are relatively unknown.

My favorite is the Oriental Sweet-box, a moderate-sized shrub with glossy evergreen foliage. The one in my garden has remained in the 4-5 ft. range for many years. This plant will surprise you with its tiny winter flowers that deliver a massive cloud of fragrance on sunny, warm midwinter days. Sarcococcas prefer a humus-rich soil and are very drought tolerant once established. They should be planted in part or full shade in well-drained soil. They are great for woodland gardens or planted near patios or windows where their fragrance can be enjoyed on a mild winter day.