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Sarcococca hookeriana humilis is commonly know as Christmas box and is in the same group as sweet box bushes. It is an evergreen plant with origins in Asia and a wide, spreading shape fuelled by its suckering habit. Sarcococca hook can be used as a ground cover in areas where a 2-foot height is not a problem. The plant has glossy, green leaves and produces tiny white flowers that spread their vanilla scent in a wide area for such little blooms. Sarcococca needs little pruning unless you are using it in a formal planting. The best time to prune is in early spring after the flowers are finished.
Prepare all cutting tools prior to starting a project. Well-sharpened blades require less effort on your part and also make cleaner cuts on the plant. Clean cuts help prevent tissue damage to the Sarcococca and the introduction of disease. Hold the blade on the stone at a 45-degree angle and scrape it across the stone two or three times. Use oil to lubricate the moving parts.
Make cuts for tip pruning at the next leaf branching. If you just want to drop the height of the plant, cut the terminal growth off 1/4 inch outside the next set of leaves. Do this to the entire plant and you can drop the profile by approximately 2 inches and still retain the appearance of a fully leafed exterior.
Clean up the exterior of the plant by removing any canes that are well outside the natural growth habit. Long, leggy branches can be cut down to a leaf cluster that is just one or two clusters inside the rest of the growth. Prune it out 1/4 inch before your leaf cluster.
Open up the plant by removing the oldest, woodiest canes. They need to be cut down to the base of the plant. Use the long-handled loppers to help you reach down into the cluster of growth. Leave 4 to 6 inches of base wood, making the cut at a leaf node.
Remove any frost-damaged wood tips. Sarcococca is an evergreen, but occasionally wind scorch, or extremes of cold on new growth, will cause the tips to blacken and lose leaves. Cut this damaged tissue back to healthy growth.
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