Indoors or Outdoors, take your pick!
Common Name: spotted Japanese laurel
Botanical Name: Aucuba japonica
Form: round, broad
Plant Type: broadleaf evergreen
Mature Size: 6 to 10 feet by 5 to 9 feet
Origin: China, Japan, Taiwan
Hardiness Zone: 7 to 9
Foliage: waxy, glossy, ovate, deep green marked with yellow spots or streaks, upper leaf margins are serrated
Flowers: small plum coloured, are not noticeable, dioecious (male & female on separate plants
Fruit: red ½” drupes contain one seed, persist until spring
Exposure: shade to partial shade, dislikes hot sun
Soil: moist, organically rich, well-drained best but generally soil tolerant
Uses: shrub border, winter interest, hedge, background, bold accent, containers, screen, houseplant, foundation plants
Propagation: cuttings, seeds
Pruning: cut back overgrown and old plants in early spring before new growth begins
Problems: root rot in wet soil, fungal leaf spot, scale, mealybug
Aucubas, also known as spotted Japanese laurels are ideal for moist and shady locations throughout the garden. These colourful broadleaf evergreen plants are not grown for their flowers, but for their large bright green leaves that are splotched or streaked with yellow. They are bold shrubs with many stems and large glossy leaves with a round canopy. These versatile plants are suitable for many uses throughout the garden, as well as inside the home as a houseplant. Now that’s versatility!
Use spotted laurel along house foundations, in shrub borders, as informal hedges and as an accent to draw attention to an area or as a lone specimen. These versatile evergreen shrubs do well when grown in containers and can be brought inside during the winter in climates where they aren’t hardy. They are also suitable to keep them inside all year long as they make reliable and colourful houseplants. Just don’t let them dry out too much as they are prone to spider mites. The same thing goes for outdoor container grown specimens.
Issues with spotted laurels occur when they receive too much sun, where the soil is too arid or too wet. This doesn’t mean they are fussy, in fact they are very easy to grow and are difficult to kill, even if you cut them way back. However, they are shade loving plants that like moist soil and if conditions are extreme, they are not going to like it. Foliage wilts and turns brown to black when there’s too much sun. When it’s too dry, growth is stunted and shrivels. Saturated soil results in withering, droopy leaves and a quick death.
Although female acucubas produce bright red berries, they are not profuse, so they are not noted for their colourful fruit. Aucubas are dioecious, which means that male and female flowers are born on separate plants. Male plants don’t produce any berries, but they do provide the pollen for the female plants, just like holly, skimmia, kiwi, mulberry and ginkgo for example. If you want fruit, then you need a male and female plant in close proximity to each other.