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Sarcococca – The Christmas Box

Posted on 21st December 2015

Sarcococca – The Christmas Box

Sarcococca species and cultivars are commonly known as the ‘Christmas Box’. This common name refers to the fact that they come into flower about Christmas time and fill the air with a magnificent scent with their masses of tiny fragrant blossoms.

Although they do belong to the same plant family as the common box, they are a different genus. They have larger and more glossy leaves than the common box so growing them as a hedge would make clipping more difficult but they do have the same compact and bushy habit but are more slow growing.

All sarcococca  are excellent shade tolerant plants, they are  very suitable for growing in containers and can be tucked away in a dark corner of the garden until November/December where they can be bought out and placed where the scent can be fully appreciated. Ideal positions would be by the front or back door – whichever one you use most, lined alongside your path or on the patio if you are inclined to take outdoor cups of coffee (or mulled wine!) on a sunny winters day.

Sarcococca is hardy and very low maintenance and requires minimal pruning, just to trim off any dead or damaged stems after any heavy winds or snow and any wayward growths that spoil the overall symmetry of the plant. It can be propagated by taking semi-ripe shoot tip cuttings in the autumn or by separating the offsets of the suckering varieties. If grown in a container apply a light dressing of slow release fertiliser when you repot or top dress annually. Allow to dry out a little between each watering. They suffer from very few pests and diseases.


Sarcococca hookeriana has a dense, suckering  habit which spreads to form a nice rounded clump, the variety dygyna has a purple tint to the stems and clusters of highly fragrant creamy white flowers in every leaf axil. The flowers are followed by shiny black berries.

Sarcococca confusa  has shorter, slightly broader leaves and is still as fragrant.

Sarcococca ruscifolia var. chinensis is very compact and bears red berries after its fragrant floral display