Primarily used as a hedge plant or a houseplant, Aucuba japonica is a broadleaf evergreen of the family Garryaceae (Silktassels).
It is better known by the name Spotted laurel and can be used to greatly enhance indoor decor or garden setups. Ideal garden locations and uses include slopes, screening, patio and containers.
Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' photograph by Leonora (Ellie) Enking.
Outdoors, these evergreen shrubs are hardy down to about 5°F (–15°C): UK hardiness zone H5 and USDA zones 7 to 9.
They are fairly drought resistant and ideal for coastal areas.
Aucuba japonica var. Rozannie, photograph by Leonora (Ellie) Enking; CC.
Plants reach from six to ten feet (1.8 to 3 m) in height, with a spread of five to nine feet (1.5 to 2.7 m).
While the leathery simple leaves of the plant might appear to be quite ordinary many variegated cultivars are available (e.g., 'Crotonifolia').
The Spotted laurel blooms in early an mid-spring, when it carries red-purple flowers. Large bright red berries follow the blooms. These are considered to be quite aesthetically pleasing.
Spotted laurel plant, image by Mike Watts; CC.
While the shrub grows best in nutritionally dense soil, it is well-known for its ability to withstand most soil types, including those laden with heavy clay.
However, spotted laurel grows poorly in soils that lack the ability to properly drain, with an oversaturation of water potentially causing root rot.
When watering the plant, it is highly recommended to use cold water as hot water can encourage certain plant diseases to develop.
It is especially important to keep the surrounding soil wet when spotted laurel is first planted, and during its first growing season.
After that, keeping the soil moist is more than enough to sustain the plant. As the shrub is good at withstanding drought conditions, only a minimal amount of water is needed most of the time.
Spotted laurel can also withstand a wide variety of light conditions. Partial shade is usually the best as the plant needs some sunlight to function optimally, but too much direct sunlight, especially during the afternoon, can cause damage to the leaves.
Growing it in complete shade is possible, although it is likely to cause a reduction in the number of berries produced every fall.
Aucuba japonica var. Picturata, photograph by Leonora (Ellie) Enking; CC.