Prepared by Debbie Shaughnessy, HGIC Information Specialist, and Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University. (New 06/99. Images added 11/06.)

HGIC 1057

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Japanese aucuba (Aucuba japonica)is a handsome broadleaf evergreen shrub used extensively in South Carolina under the canopy of large trees or as a foundation plant in shady corners of the home. It is adapted to all areas of South Carolina.

Gold Dust Aucuba
Gold dust aucuba
Karen Russ, ©2006 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Mature Height/Spread

Aucuba usually grows 6 to 10 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide. It can grow up to 15 feet tall. A dense, upright to rounded shrub, it usually remains neat and tidy.

Growth Rate

It grows at a slow to moderate rate, but given good doses of water and fertilizer, it grows more rapidly.

Ornamental Features

Aucuba has dark green, leathery leaves. They remain dark and lustrous throughout the seasons, provided they are located in shade.

Flowers are not showy, but the scarlet red fruit, which matures in October and November, is quite handsome but often hidden by the large leaves. Females do not produce fruit unless a male aucuba is in the vicinity.

Landscape Use

Aucuba is generally grown as a foliage plant. It is an ideal shrub for a dark corner on the north or east side of a house. Use it as a specimen, in screens or groupings, provided it is planted in shade. The variegated types brighten a dark corner or break the monotony of a large sea of green.

The sexes are separate, and to ensure good fruit production, plant mostly females with an occasional male nearby.

The ideal soil is moist, high in organic matter and well-drained, although it will tolerate almost any soil condition. Plant in partial to full shade (summer and winter), as its leaves will "burn" in summer and turn sickly green in winter. It competes successfully with the demanding roots of other shrubs and trees, and transplants easily. Avoid overhead watering to reduce incidence of disease. Prune occasionally to restrain growth or eliminate dead or dying branches caused by disease.


The biggest problem with aucuba is foliage burn in full sun, and this can be avoided with proper plant placement. This is especially true of varieties with variegated foliage. Leaf spots and stem dieback can also occur. Insects are not a significant problem.


  • 'Variegata' - This is a yellow-flecked form and is female. It is the true Gold Dust Plant.
  • 'Crassifolia' - This is a male form with large, dark green leaves.
  • 'Serratifolia' - This is a green leaf female form that produces heavy fruit with a male pollinator.

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.