Sarcococca saligna

Sarcococca saligna
Sarcococca saligna 
willowleaf sweet box
SIZE/TYPE low or groundcovering
 small shrub
LEAVES evergreen broadleaf
FLOWERS less showy but noticeable
BLOOMING TIME February - April
LOCATION semi-shade to shade
SOIL TYPE any (acidic to alkaline)
SOIL MOISTURE REQUIREMENTS evenly moist but well-drained
USDA zone (lowest) 7   (down to -18°C)
FOR ZONE 5+6 Code of winter protection zone 5+6
FOR ZONE 7 Code of winter protection zone 7
BELONGS TO CATEGORIES Evergreen broadleaf
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Sweet box is an Asian taxon of low to mid-sized, evergreen shrubs native to a large area from Afghanistan to the Himalayas and N.E. China. It is from the same family as box plant and even though they were supposed to be tender for C.E. climate, the fact than some species are present at the foot of the Himalayas encourages the breeders from colder areas to spend more time on their hybridizing.

Willowleaf sweet box is a charming species of this little-known evergreen shrub, native to northern Pakistan. Its generic name refers to the similarity of its narrow foliage to willow leaves. Unlike those, however, sweet box has evergreen leaves. They are up to 14 cm long, bright green, leathery, and glossy. From mid to late winter, when temperatures rise above zero for more than a few days in a row, small, fringed, white flowers begin to open, which, compared to all other species, are only weakly scented or lack any fragrance at all. They continue blooming even if the temperature drops below zero during the night. In summer female flowers produce small, black, fleshy fruits that are neither edible nor poisonous.

Willowleaf sweet box is valued for its arching habit that gives the impression of a small bamboo plant, and its relaxed appearance is perfect for meditation corners in Zen gardens. It grows slowly and reaches around 1.5m tall at full maturity, which can take decades. It is often used as an understory of tall multi-stemmed shrubs or trees, and once established it is extremely drought tolerant. It will elegantly fill empty shady spaces where nothing else thrives but you still need something pretty there.

Sweet box usually does not need pruning to look good but may be gently sheared immediately after flowering. It spreads by suckers to form dense colonies unless the ground is covered with mulching sheets. If you want to grow it in full sun (not recommended) provide regular watering and get ready for some burnt tops after harsh winters.

Sweet box is commonly used as a ground cover or filler in semi-shaded or shaded locations where it is protected from strong winter sunlight and cutting winds. It will grow in almost any well-drained soil but performs best in acidic to neutral, humus-rich, evenly moist soil. It thrives on neglect and once established it requires no care. Mulching helps retain moisture and reduces temperature swings in winter. It is commonly rated hardy to min. -18 °C (USDA zone 7) and is under further trials in colder zones.

Last update 05-03-2023

Sarcococca hookeriana
Sarcococca hookeriana
Aucuba japonica var. longifolia
  • STANDARD QUALITY - Plants of this group are 1st class quality with number of branches and overall density adequate to their size and age, considering they were container grown.
  • DE LUXE QUALITY - This label guarantees a luxurious quality of manually selected plants that, compared to their height and age, are exceptionally dense and beautiful.
  • EXTRA - These plants are usually mature and bigger specimens with exceptional overall appearance.
  • STANDARD (as described in the plant form) means a tree with a trunk of 190-210 cm and a crown at the top, unless specified differently. The commercial size for trees is their girth measured in the height of 1m from ground.
  • HOBBY - These plants are of the same quality as our standard-quality plants but younger and therefore cheaper.
  • SHRUB - a woody plant with branches growing bushy from the ground level.
  • HALF-STANDARD or MINI-STANDARD - a small tree with shorter trunk, its size is usually specified.
  • FEATHERED - These are trees with branches growing already from the base of the trunk and up along the stem.
  • GRASSES and PERENNIALS - Sizes given usually read the diameter of the pot or the clump, as specified.
LARGE PLANTS over 150 cmspecimens, screening and hedging shrubs

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