Gardening Magazine

Aucuba Japonica ‘Variegata’

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Aucuba japonica 'Variegata' (28/09/2014, Kew Gardens, London)

Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ (28/09/2014, Kew Gardens, London)

Position: Full sun to shade

Flowering period: Spring

Soil: Well drained

Eventual Height: 3m

Eventual Spread: 3m

Hardiness: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b

Family: Garryaceae

Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ is a slow growing, medium sized, evergreen, spreading shrub. Its opposite leaves are leathery, slightly serrated, smooth in texture, up to 10cm long and quite broad. They are dark green with numerous yellow spots. Aucuba japonica is a dioecious plant, this variety is female. The dark purple flowers of the plant are borne in small clusters of 10-30 in a loose cyme. The red fruit of the plant is a berry, are up to 1cm in diameter, initially green and persist on the plant through out the winter months.

The species, Aucuba japonica, commonly known as Japanese Laurel or Japanese Aucuba, is native to Japan and China. In its native habitat it grows in woods in lowlands and mountains. Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ is commonly known as the Spotted Laurel, or Gold Dust Plant.  The berry of the plant is poisonous.

The etymological root of the binomial name Aucuba is derived from the Latinised form of the Japanese word Aokiba, the Japanese name for this plant. Japonica is derived from the Latin meaning ‘of Japan’.

The landscape architect may find Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ useful as a medium sized evergreen shrub for shady locations. This shrub may form a formal or informal hedge. Once established this plant is drought resistant, is pollution tolerant and tolerant of maritime conditions.

Aucuba japonica 'Variegata' Leaf (28/09/2014, Kew Gardens, London)

Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ Leaf (28/09/2014, Kew Gardens, London)

Ecologically Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ is of little value to wildlife as the birds avoid its toxic berries.

The Royal Horticultural Society has given Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’  their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ prefers moist, reasonably fertile, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil. Waterlogged soils should be avoided. It will tolerate dry soils, including ground near mature trees.

Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ requires little maintenance.


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