Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Aucuba Japonicas in the Home Garden

It has been quite a while since I first posted about Aucuba japonica (Aucuba japonica), aka Gold Dust Plant, so I thought I'd take the time to talk about this favored shrub of mine here in Tiger Gardens. Winter is sometimes when the aucubas shine the most in the garden so right now, early February, is the time to spotlight this wonderfully adaptable shrub.

We'll first start with a description which will include glossy evergreen leaves speckled and splashed with dots of yellow. It is almost as if someone took a paintbrush and flicked specks of yellow paint all over this deep evergreen shrub. The shrub will stay a neat and rounded shape that will very slowly grow to about six feet or more in the home garden. My aucubas have been in place about eight years and have finally reached the very large size of four feet tall and about 3 1/2-4' wide.
Aucubas begin producing buds in the winter. Soon these buds will open up and bloom. If there is a male shrub nearby and the buds on a female aucuba are pollinated you will be overjoyed to see berries growing on your aucubas. The berries have not yet formed on these shrubs this year but if you'd like to see what they will look like take a quick peek at my first aucuba post found here. It is absolutely necessary to have a male plant along with female plants if you want berries on your aucubas. At many reputable and good quality nurseries you should be about to find aucubas sexed-labeled male or female. Big box stores may or may not have their aucubas labeled as to male or female so be aware that when you purchase an aucuba you need both a boy and a girl in order to have berries. If, however, you only wish to propagate the aucubas they can be rooted easily from cuttings so you don't need the berries to make more.
Aucubas fit into woodland and shade gardens marvelously. I have mine all planted in a raised bed surrounding a large short pitch pine located in the front yard. There is also a nearby Pieris (Pieris japonica 'Mountain Fire'). Both of these shrubs grow in a good organic soil that is heavily mulched with pine needles from the pine tree each year. The garden is extremely dry during the summertime so I occasionally have to water-but you must be very careful when watering aucubas. It is better not to water them than to water too often too shallowly. I think I watered these aucubas only one time last summer from early May until late June. Most of the other plants and shrubs in my garden required far more water. Be sure you give aucubas and pieris a good well drained area in which to grow or they will suffer. Both pieris and the aucubas need some sun protection and will burn if not given sun protection. Pieris and aucubas are shrubs for the shade.

My aucubas help to provide a great deal of privacy from the road in front of my home. Evergreen shrubs are good for that as well as for looking great in the wintertime. The above picture was taken looking toward the silverberries and road. I wanted you all to see just how full and lush the aucubas are during this time of the year. It wasn't until I uploaded these pictures that I saw the little female cardinal sitting in the hedge on a crepe myrtle branch. Can you see her?
If not, here is an up close picture of the cardinal enjoying the view of the aucubas....

in the garden....
Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. These shrubs are beautiful. I notice that you put a yellow yard ornament behind these green and yellow shrubs. Always designing aren't you?!! Wonderful pictures!!

  2. Another fine post and beautiful photos. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  3. The renter planted some of these in a very small area. I moved some of them to give them more growing room, and all of them have thrived. I think they are some of the most durable plants in my garden. And as you said, they really do shine at this time of year when everything else is pretty drab.

  4. A beautiful bush but such a slow grower. I have never noticed Boy or Girl tags on plants before. I wonder if I have over looked them in the past or our Big Box store does not show that.... Hummm.

  5. I can't imagine a bush that blooms in winter would survive in Maine. Thanks for sharing yours. Lovely photo of the cardinal!

    1. You are correct Sarah, the aucubas are reliably hardy only to Zone 7.

  6. I have two, and love them both. One is 'Sulphurea' which has broad bands of yellow around each leaf. The other is 'Hosoba Hoshifu' which looks like a croton and whose name is not so easy to say.

  7. I never knew these plants had for south do they grow?

  8. Very pretty! You had me sold on these - but I wonder if they could take my clay soil. Still, yours is so gorgeous, I just may have to give growing one a try. Growing it next to the Peris is perfect!

  9. I really love the foliage of this unusual and especially for my area!

  10. I love that last photo with the closeup of the cardinal. Aucuba looks like a great plant, all that lush foliage, drought resistant , shade loving, and flowers too.

  11. I wish I could have aucuba in my garden. From my reading it is a shrub that deer just love. I will admire it in other's gardens.