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Plant of the month – Sarcacocca

Published: 16th November, 2016

SarcococcaSarcacoccas, also known as Christmas Box or Sweet Box, are wonderful plants cultivated for their year-round dependability. You can count on them to be a reliable, glossy evergreen shrub which will thrive in shade while providing you with abundant winter flowers that smell fantastic.

A small to medium sized plant, it’s a real workhorse which is useful in so many garden situations and is very easy to maintain. It’s incredibly drought tolerant and shade tolerant. Good drainage is helpful but not essential. Unlike many other plants, it will also put up with lime or acid soils. It needs very little to no pruning. What could be easier? Though it can cope with sunny spots the foliage will look a little bleached compared to the deep green of plants situated in the shade.

The dark green shiny leaves obviously create interest all year round, but it is in December / January when the rest of the garden is quiet that Sarcacocca really comes to life. The white spider like flowers bloom along the stems of the plant and last for around a month to a month and a half. The phenomenal vanilla and honey fragrance emanates far from the plant, especially when you get a sunny day. You’ll fully appreciate the fragrance if you cut the blossoms and bring them into the home. The fragrance releases with the warmth of the house and smells absolutely fabulous.

Following the flowers large clusters of attractive red, purple or black berries appear and may hang on the plant for many months or even persist into the following winter unless the birds get to them.

There are 11 species of Sarcococca and Henry Street Garden Centre has a great selection in stock – ideal for pots by the front door.

One of the most fragrant of varieties is Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis. A wonderful plant for creating a thicket instead of growing as a single shrub, it has a narrow leaf, the tiniest of all the flowers and stays a little bit smaller than the other Sarcococca.

Another of our favourite varieties is Sarcococca ruscifolia. This grows more as a single shrub, with a looser, open habit and a little bit taller than hookeriana. If planted in front of a wall or fence it will sometime almost espalier naturally and the branches will fan out and cover the wall in a beautiful way.

But our top of the list number 1 pick is Sarcococca Confusa. We like it the best because of it’s really dense, tidy appearance and the highly glossy, dark green leaves look great all year round. It’s a wonderful screen plant and remains reasonably compact at about 3 feet high and 3 feet wide. It tends to have the largest of the flowers and then in the summer it develops a black berry, rather than a red berry like many of the other varieties.

So, if you have a neglected shady corner, make a bed and edge it with Sarcococca for wonderful greenery and amazing perfume throughout the winter months.



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