How to Grow Aucuba Japonica Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Gold Dust Plant / Japanese laurel /Long-leaved spotted Laurel

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.

Long-leaved spotted laurel
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 Rozannie
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
Spotted laurel plant, image by Mike Watts; CC.

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Spotted Laurel

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 Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Aucuba japonica
  • Common Name: Gold dust plant, Japanese aucuba, Japanese laurel, Long-leaved spotted laurel,
  • Growing Zone: USA: 7 to 10
  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Indoor Plant, Shrub

Plant Details

  • Plant Height (Inches): 48 to 72
  • Plant Spread (Inches): 36 to 72
  • Time of Bloom: Spring
  • Flower Details: Red
  • Leaf Foliage: Green, Variegated
  • Fruit:
  • Growth Form: Oval, Rounded, Upright or erect

Ideal Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: shade to partial shade partial sun
  • Rate of Growth: Grows slowly
  • Suitable Soil Types: Acidic, Clay, Loamy, Neutral, Sandy, Slightly alkaline, Well drained
  • Soil Moisture: Moist

Caring Conditions

  • Care:
  • Level of Maintenance: Low
  • Propagation: Propagate from semi-ripe cuttings or Seed
  • How to Prune: Requires little to no pruning. In some cases hard pruning can be disruptive.
  • Pests: Usually pest free
  • Diseases: Usually pest free outdoors

Further Information

  • Can Attract:
  • Tolerant of: Heavy Shade, Clay Soil, Air Pollution
  • Best Garden Use: Border, Container, Yard, Foundation, En masse, Specimen, Woodland garden.
  • Family: Garryaceae.
  • Miscellaneous: Attractive foliage, Non-native to North America, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
  • Genus Detail: Aucuba
  • Further Reading and References: Here and Here

Aucuba japonica Picturata
Aucuba japonica var. Picturata, photograph by Leonora (Ellie) Enking; CC.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Aucuba japonica. You may also enjoy the following growing guides: How to grow Virginia bluebells and Begonia.