Aucuba japonica

This easy, super-drought-tolerant, adaptable evergreen for sun or shade earns high marks as a hero of climate change. It looks great after the worst drought in decades — with no help from this gardener. Aucuba japonica 'Gold Dust'And just imagine how it brightens even the gloomiest spot, and even in the gloomiest months.  It also does well in pots, or as a houseplant.

‘Gold Dust’, pictured here, is the most common. But look at these new varieties: ‘Picturata’ and Mr. Goldstrikevery cool.

Aucubas are native to large parts of Asia.

Details

  • ‘Gold Dust’ can grow to 10 feet tall by 5-7 feet wide — big — and some have been known to grow 15 feet tall. Smaller varieties are available, too.
  • Tolerates full shade through full sun, though some leaf burn can result from afternoon sun.
  • Sources say it grows well in Zones 6-10, but one Zone 5 contributors to Daves Forum reports that hers is thriving. Some winter dieback can occur, however, which needs to be pruned away.
  • Female plants will berry in the fall if a male is nearby.

Care

  • Extremely drought-tolerant.
  • Prune to any shape or size. Aucuba will take any pruning abuse inflicted on it and keep growing back. For the aucubas in the top photo, once a year I Aucuba japonica 'Gold Dust'remove some of the taller stems that are starting to bend over, as well as any branches that are hanging over the driveway.
  • Grows at a moderate rate, though sources advise that faster growth can be accomplished with yearly fertilizing and regular watering until it’s the size you want.
  • Aucuba is famously easy to propagate by rooting. Some gardeners dust the cutting with rooting hormone; others just stick the cutting in the ground in the shade and water it in. Voila — new plant.
  • As noted above, removal of some winter dieback may be needed.