Sarcococca ruscifolia
Common Name: fragrant sweet box 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Buxaceae
Native Range: Western China, Tibet
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to April
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Heavy Shade


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-9 where it is best grown in acidic, organically rich, moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Best in part shade. Leaves lose luster and may burn in full sun. Best with consistent moisture. Appreciates a good mulch. Propagate by division or seed. Prune in spring after flowering to maintain attractive shape. Consider locating this shrub in areas where the flower fragrance can be appreciated (e.g., near doors, sidewalks or foundations).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Sarcococca ruscifolia, commonly called fragrant sweetbox or fragrant sarcococca, is a dense, low-growing, sometimes suckering, broadleaf evergreen shrub with a compact habit that typically grows to 3-4' tall and as wide. It features (a) ovate, sharp-pointed, somewhat leathery, glossy deep green, evergreen leaves (to 2 1/2" long), (b) fragrant, unisexual, apetalous, creamy white flowers in tassel-like axillary racemes (females with 3 stigmas located below males with 4-6 stamens) with early spring bloom (March-April), and (c) globular dark red berries (to 1/4" across) which ripen to black. This small shrub is native from central to western China.

Genus name comes from the Greek words sarkos meaning flesh and kokkos meaning a berry in reference to the fleshy fruits.

Specific epithet means having leaves like the genus Ruscus (butcher's broom).


No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for scale.


Woodland gardens, shade gardens, foundations, informal hedge. Shady corners of the landscape.