Sweet box, cute winter flowers


Sweet box is a beautiful shrub with a surprising name that produces beautiful winter blooms.

Basic Sweet box facts

Type – shrub

Height – extremely variable, maximum 13 feet (4 meters)
Soil – ordinary
Exposure – sun and part sun

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – January to March

It is very much appreciated for the fragrance that its flowers release. Related to boxwood, which makes it great for hedges.

Planting sweet box

For sweet box, planting is either in fall or in spring but avoid frost spells and high temperatures.

In the first case, settling in is easier, and in the second case, you’ll need to water regularly after having planted your sweet box.

This shrub abhors cold winds and damp soil, especially clay soil that gets waterlogged in winter.

  • Provide your potted sweet box with planting or repotting soil mix.
  • Planting sweetboxFor sweet box planted in the ground, if you wish to grow a low-lying hedge, your 6 to 8 inch (15 to 20 cm) sweet box specimens should be planted 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) apart.
    With more space between plants, your hedge can be taller.
    Add soil mix blended with earth from your garden.
  • Once the sweet box is planted, cover the ground around it with mulch which will protect the young roots from from freezing, and add the organic matter that will let it grow.
  • After planting, water abundantly.

Pruning and caring for sweet box

Sweet box is a shrub that requires very little work. Pruning is the only care that is actually needed, and even this can be converted from chore to passion, when the art of topiary is mastered!

Easy to care for, sweet box thus doesn’t need any care other than pruning, and even that isn’t mandatory.

There are no known sweet box diseases or parasites.

Watering sweet box

Sweet box growing directly in the ground resists drought well, but potted sweet box quickly suffers in case of dry spell. Forgetting to water it could spell its death.

Watering potted sweet box

  • Sweet box tends to suffer from water deficit within a short span of time, and you’ll notice that its leaves turn yellow and brittle.
  • In case of heat, remember to water regularly without, however, drowning its roots.
  • Also check that your pot presents a hole in its bottom, because if the roots macerate in water, they’ll start rotting.

Watering sweet box when planted in the ground

  • It isn’t necessary to water, except in case of drought, and then again only if you notice the leafage turning yellow.
  • Note that the leaves of certain varieties naturally turn yellow in fall, which doesn’t mean that water is lacking.
  • In spring, add special boxwood or shrub fertilizer to boost growth and produce nice leaves.

Learn more about sweet box

Sweetbox pollinatorsNative to East and South-East Asia and to the Himalayas, too, sweet box is a rather slow-growing shrub which has very appealing evergreen foliage, dark green in color. It blooms in winter.

  • Excellent choice to support pollinators that venture out on warmer winter days.

The most widespread sweet box variety is confusa that can grow up to 6 ½ feet (2 meters) tall.

Sweetbox berries to attract birdsThe scientific name Sarcococca comes from the two greek words sarkhos which means flesh and kokkos which means berries. Indeed, another appealing trait of sweet sweet box are its magnificent berries that decorate the shrub and make birds tweet with joy in summer.

Thanks to its tiny leaves, tightly bound together, this shrub is like a material that truly can be sculpted. Pruning and topiary is for some among us a passion that leads to amazing works of art.

Its hard wood and leathery leaves give it an extended longevity.

Smart tip about sweet box

Sweet box is perfectly suited to growing in pots or in garden boxes for terraces and balconies.

It will thus decorate your deck and garden magnificently, and will survive the winter without giving you any problems…

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Conall