Aucuba Japonica : Broadleaf Evergreen That Provides Year Round Interest

Aucuba Japonica : Broadleaf Evergreen That Provides Year Round Interest

Acuba Japonica

Photo Compliments Of Brian Pettinger

Aucuba japonica is commonly called Aucuba and sometimes spotted laurel. This is a rounded, shade-loving, broadleaf evergreen shrub that typically reaches a height of 6 to 10 feet at maturity (under ideal conditions to 15 feet). Leaves are leathery, glossy, and elliptic to ovate and medium green (each reaches 8 inches in length) with some coarse marginal teeth. Tiny reddish purple flowers bloom in early spring (March to April) on separate plants. Male flowers appear in upright terminal panicles (cymes to 4 1/2 inches long). Female flowers appear in shorter clusters from the leaf axils. Female flowers are followed by ellipsoid, one-seeded, bright red, berry-like drupes (to 1/2 inch) in fall. Fruits often persist on the plant until spring.

How To Make Your Aucuba Japonica Thrive

Aucuba japonica gives your garden year round interest and is winter hardy in Zones 7 to 9.  It thrives in moist, organically rich, well-drained soils. Light requirements run from part shade to full sun (partial shade is preferable). Once established plants are very drought tolerant and will accept average to nutritionally poor soils as well as most city air pollutants. When you are choosing a place to plant you should avoid overly moist or wet soils. Best planting locations would be protected from strong winds, particularly near the northern edge of the growing range. Plants will generally tolerate temperatures down to minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit, which means they will survive in some Zone 6 locations if they are properly sheltered. If you are growing this in containers your need to be careful to apply consistent moisture during the summer and develop a regiment of monthly applications of a liquid fertilizer. Water applications should be reduced in winter. Aucuba japonica is dioecious (female plants will not produce fruit without the presence of a male pollinator plant).

General Aucuba Japonica Information

Pests And Diseases

There are no serious insect or disease problems. The plant is easy to grow, but when it is stressed you can develop root rot in wet soils; southern blight, fungal leaf spots, and Nematodes are also possible problems in stressed conditions. Winter dieback may occur in cold winter areas.


Propagation is quite easy and can be done with both cuttings or from seed.

Garden Uses

This plant can be uses as a hedge, or as a screen; you can locate acuba in large tubs, in planters, or containers for patios and terraces.  It is also ideal in your woodland garden.

Quick Facts

  • Family: Garryaceae
  • Type: Broadleaf evergreen
  • Hardiness Zones: Zones 6 to 10
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Growth Habit: Round
  • Height: 6 to 10 feet at maturity
  • Spread: 5 to 9 feet at maturity
  • Bloom Time: March to April
  • Bloom Description: Reddish-purple
  • Flower: Showy
  • Fruit: Showy
  • Sun: Part shade to full shade is ideal
  • Water: Medium
  • Maintenance: Low
  • Tolerates: Heavy shade, clay soil, air pollution

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