Aucuba japonica

Aucuba japonica

Medium to large sized, hardy evergreen shrub with large glossy leaves. A robust, hardy, garden perennial that is tolerant of a wide range of conditions, including dense shade.

Family: Garryaceae
Botanical Name: Aucuba (ow-kew-ba) japonica (ja-pon-i-ka)
Common Name: Japanese laurel

Foliage: Broad or narrow, oval, glossy evergreen leaves. Yellow spotted and variegated forms are popular.

Flowers: Erect terminal panicles of purplish flowers. Female flowers are followed compact clusters of bright red berries.

Flowering Period: Spring.

Soil: any good, moist but free draining soil (sand, loam or chalk). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH. Not suitable for water logged soils.

Conditions: Sun or partial shade. Best grown in a north, east or west-facing aspect.

Origin: China, Korea, Japan.

Habit: Bushy, rounded.

Type: Large shrub.

Hardiness: Hardy in most regions of the UK.

Toxicity: Harmful if eaten. Wear gloves and wash hands after handling.

Planting and Growing Aucuba japonica

An easy to grow shrub, that will thrive in most free-draining soils, in full sun or partial shade. They will tolerate deep shade, although, good berry production and variegation are better in more open positions.

Ideal for town and coastal gardens. Useful in borders, containers as hedging plants or as a specimen shrub. All varieties of Aucuba are a good choice for difficult situations.

Both male and female plants need to be planted in close proximity to produce red berries in the autumn

Taking Care of Aucuba japonica

Aucuba is a low maintenance shrub that requires very little attention or pruning. Water well until established. Container grown plants must be watered regularly. Mulch with organic matter in spring and add a general fertilizer.

Pruning Aucuba japonica

Remove unwanted branches in spring and early autumn, then trim to shape as required.

Hedges can be trimmed in early spring and/or early autumn. Large leaf varieties are best pruned with secateurs rather than shears, to avoid cutting through the leaves.

Propagating Aucuba japonica

Increase from cuttings of semi-ripe shoots in summer or take hardwood cuttings in October.

Popular Varieties of Aucuba japonica Grown in the UK

Various forms are available, many with useful variegated leaves.

Aucuba japonica

Aucuba japonica 'Variegata'


Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' (spotted laurel)

Hardy variegated evergreen shrub (female), leaves speckled golden-yellow. Makes a dense rounded bush. Requires a male plant nearby to produce red berries. Height and spread: 8ft (2.5m).



Aucuba japonica 'Maculata' (spotted laurel)

Female form with large, shiny dark green yellow spotted leaves. Long lasting red berries appear in autumn. Height: 6-12ft (2-4m), spread 5-6ft (l.5m).

Aucuba japonica 'Nana Rotundifolia'

Compact female variety with smaller than usual green leaves, with the upper half toothed.

Aucuba japonica 'Picturata'

A strikingly variegated male form with elongated central golden splashes.

Aucuba japonica 'Salicifolia' (Longifolia group)

A narrow long leaved, free-fruiting form.