Aucuba japonica or Gold Dust Aucuba is an attractive broadleaf evergreen shrub native to eastern Asia and Japan. They are slow to moderate growers and will reach a height of 4-12 feet (1.2-3.7 m) with a spread of 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 m). Leaves are opposite, elliptical to elliptical-lanceolate 3-7 inches (8-18 cm) long and 1-3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm) wide. Leaf colors on mine are dark green with golden yellow variegation. There are many cultivars with different leaf variegation patterns. They are the best evergreen for deep shade situations and are very drought resistant once established. Plants are hardy in USDA zone 7-10.
Blooming: Plants are monoecious and both male and female plants are needed for fruit production. Flowers are small and inconspicuous. If fruit is produced, it is red about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long.
Culture: Aucuba japonica is not fussy about soil type, but they do best in a slightly acidic sandy loam. When we planted ours in our yard which is good ole Oklahoma red clay. We amended the soil with gypsum and added sand to a depth of 2 feet (0.60 m). This helps bring the pH down to 6.8. They were planted in deep shade underneath the trees. During the establishment period, plants were well watered on a weekly basis and given light fertilizer applications monthly. Now that the plants are established, we water them every couple of weeks except in extreme drought periods. If the plants get too much sun or drying winds, the leaves tend to turn black. Here in Oklahoma you have to protect the plants from both. Since they are evergreen there is no fall color.
Propagation: Aucuba japonica is very easily propagated from cuttings and from seed when available. Cuttings taken in the spring and treated with a rooting hormone should root in about 3 weeks. Cuttings placed in water will root in 2-3 weeks.
Aucuba japonica was featured as Plant of the Week July 17-23, 2009.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.