How To Care For Sweet Box Plant

Sarcococca confusa [sar-koh-KOH-kuh, kon-FEW-suh] belongs to the Buxaceae (box) family of plants. 

As with other plants in the box family, the sweet box plant is an evergreen shrub with thick foliage.

blooming sweet box plantPin

The sweet scent of sarcococca confusa gives it the common name “sweet box.”

The sweet box plant is native to China, but it’s adaptable to a wide range of regions, making it an easy plant to cultivate.

Sweet Box Plant Care

Size and Growth

The sweet box Sarcococca plant is an evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves.

The foliage is dense, with stems growing outward from central woody branches. 

The leaves are oval and may appear rippled.

The plant typically reaches about 7′ feet tall and 3′ feet wide. 

It may take about five to seven years for sarcococca confusa to reach its full height.

Flowering and Fragrance

Sarcococca confusa blooms in the late winter or early spring. 

It produces small white flowers with thin petals.

The flowers produce a strong scent of honey, attracting a variety of wildlife and pollinators, including birds and bees.

After the flowering season, small blackberries appear. Birds tend to eat the berries and scatter the seeds.

Light and Temperature

Sarcococca confusa is an adaptable plant, growing easily in most lighting conditions. 

However, it grows best in partial shade or full shade.

Full sun may bleach the leaves a little, but it’s possible in cool climates with damp soil.

These plants are winter hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9. 

In zone 6, where temperatures may reach -10° degrees Fahrenheit (-23° C), the plant may survive outdoors with protection from the cold.

TIP: Adding a layer of mulch around the shrub should protect the roots during cold winters.

If grown in a container and kept indoors, avoid placing the plant near a window with direct afternoon sunlight. 

Place it in a partially shaded room with good air circulation.

Watering and Feeding

Water the plant moderately if the area doesn’t receive a lot of rain. 

Check the soil regularly. If the top several inches are dry, water thoroughly.

While young plants can survive short periods of drought, the soil should remain moist for optimal growth. 

After the plant is established, it requires less water.

Unless the region receives prolonged periods of drought, established plants may not need watering.

Adding liquid fertilizer encourages healthier growth. 

Mix a liquid fertilizer with water according to the labeled directions.

Use the fertilizer/water mixture once per month during the spring and summer.

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Soil and Transplanting

Use a fertile, well-drained soil. The soil should contain lots of organic matter. 

If the existing garden soil is dry or lightly colored, add humus or peat moss to improve moisture retention.

Before planting young plants in a garden, rake additional organic matter into the soil. 

Leaf mold or store-bought compost material helps deliver more nutrients to the plant, allowing it to quickly take root.

If grown in a container, transplant every other year to refresh the soil. 

As the plant requires rich soil, it needs occasionally replacing to prevent rot and fungal growth.


Prune the plant in the spring and again after flowering to control the size and shape. 

Use sharp gardening shears and trim the foliage back to the desired length.

How to Propagate Sarcococca Confusa

Propagate with seed or cuttings. 

  • Sow seeds outdoors in cold frames in the fall or directly in the garden in the spring.
  • It’s also possible to start the seeds indoors several weeks before the last threat of frost at the end of winter or beginning of spring. 
  • Use fertile soil with lots of organic matter.
  • Keep the soil moist and wait to transplant the plants outdoors until the seedlings are actively producing new growth.

To propagate with cuttings, select semi-hardwood sections of the stem in the late summer. 

  • The cuttings should be at least 5″ or 6″ inches long and contain several sets of leaves.
  • Remove the lower leaves and dip the tips in rooting powder. 
  • The powder helps the cuttings take root more quickly.
  • Place the cuttings in individual 4″ inch pots containing rich soil with good drainage. 
  • After the plants take root and start producing new growth, transplant outdoors.

Sarcococca Confusa Pest or Disease Problems

The plant is deer-resistant and mostly free of pest and disease problems. 

Potential issues include fungal growth from overwatering in cool regions.

If the plant develops powdery mildew (white growth) on the leaves, limit watering and remove the affected parts of the plant.

Learn more on How To Control Powdery Mildew here

Sarcococca confusa isn’t known to produce toxic effects when ingested. 

It’s still a good idea to keep children or pets away from the plant, especially when the small blackberries appear.

While the berries are not considered toxic, ingesting them may cause mild stomach discomfort.

Suggested Sweet Box Plant Uses

Sarcococca confusa is often grown near structures providing partial or full shade, helping to bring life to areas where other plants may not grow easily. 

Add a sweet box bush near a shed, garage, or the side of the house.

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