Winter garden in the Pacific Northwest seems incomplete without this landscape standard. It has lush, glossy, evergreen foliage year round, takes dry shade conditions, and flowers in the wintertime with a powerful scent that perfumes the landscape. Sweet Box comes in two basic forms for the home gardener: the tall form and short form. The tall form (S. ruscifolia and S. confusa) get to about 2-3 feet in height and wide. The short form (varieties of S. hookeriana) makes somewhat of a groundcover with underground stolons that form a clump no taller than 12 inches and can spread about 3 feet.
In the garden, the ideal location for Sweet Box is under part shade with regular irrigation the first few seasons to get it established. It works well as a foundation planting up against the house and in mixed beds in a shaded woodland garden. Despite its common name and close relationship, Sweet Box can’t be treated like regular boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) and be sheared on a regular basis. To keep the size and shape in check, prune only the tall forms and prune shortly after they’ve finished blooming (March-April). This forces new growth and stems that will then flower the following winter. Pruning during the summer and fall will remove the new growth; therefore, the flower buds are sacrificed.
Common Name: Sweet Box
Location: Fragrance Garden
Origin: Eastern and Southeastern Asia, Himalayas
Height and Spread: Tall (2-3′ height x 3′ spread) – Short (1′ height x 3′ spread)
Bloom/Fruit Time: Late December-late February