Aucuba japonica – Aucuba japonica – Garden plants – Aucuba japonica – Shrubs

The Aucuba japonica is a small, erect, evergreen shrub native to Japan. The adult specimens reach about two meters in height, although often the size of these plants remain smaller, the foliage is dense and roundish, the branches and the stem are bright green.

The aucuba is an evergreen shrub extremely used in the furnishing of parks and gardens for its particular resistance to cold, drought, pollution, wind and disease.

It is also grown in pots to decorate interior spaces, such as entrances.

If kept in apartment or interior spaces rarely exceeds one meter, instead outside it can reach from 2 to 3.50 m in height and width.

The aucuba japonica, or simply aucuba, belongs to the family of Cornaceae and is native to the Asian continent.

It is characterized by persistent brilliant green foliage, often spotted. The large oval, leathery leaves, with indented edges, are arranged in pairs.

The leaves are large, leathery, shiny, and usually the most cultivated species are those with variegated leaves, such as A. j. variegata, with bright green leaves variegated in white, or A. crotonifolia, with green leaves variegated in orange or red.

At the beginning of spring, they produce panicles made up of small brown flowers, followed in autumn, in the female specimens, by showy red berries, which remain on the plant until spring.

In order to have an abundant production of berries, it is advisable to plant at least two nearby specimens, one male and one female.

Female plants produce small clusters of flowers in spring and bright red, inedible, ovoid berries at the beginning of winter. But the production of fruits is only possible if the female specimen is planted next to a male specimen.

Beware of the leaves and berries of aucuba because they are toxic: ingestion can cause irritation of the oral mucosa, severe gastric disorders and nausea.

Aucuba variegata


Aucuba This type of plant prefers semi-shaded positions, and fears places in full sun, which could seriously damage the plant if it remains exposed for a long time. These plants are rather rustic and resistant and are able to adapt even to suboptimal conditions, but the too intense sun can ruin them irreparably, while they are much more resistant as far as the rigid climate is concerned.

This variety, in fact, does not fear the cold, even if it is advisable to keep it away from the cold winter winds, to avoid that too low temperatures ruin the outer leaves.

Aucuba can be planted in the shade or in the middle of the shade as it does not need much light to grow. In fact, it withstands very well even in positions with very limited brightness, for example in an entrance hall or on a landing.

Aucuba japonica in brief





Type of plant

 Shrub with decorative foliage


 Asian continent








 Interior, balcony or terrace, borders, hedges or isolated plant

Height at maturity

 From 60 cm to 3.50 m

Speed of growth


Diseases and pests

 Ladybug, grey mould

The spotted varieties take on very beautiful colours in the sun, while the exposure to half shade favours the development of the red berries.

Thanks to its particular aesthetic characteristics and resistance, the aucuba can be used

– to create a hedge

– for borders

– in a courtyard

– for a large evergreen bush in a flowerbed

– to decorate a balcony or terrace

– in the interior spaces of a house.


L Aucuba cannot stand high temperatures, instead it resists very well, even if for short periods, to cold temperatures (-150).

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aucuba japonica variegata The aucuba japonica can easily withstand short periods of drought and fear the soil is too wet, to get a plant with a lush development is good, however, water regularly, especially in the period from March to October. It is good to check that there are no water stagnations that could be dangerous.

In winter it is advisable to water the plant sporadically if there are prolonged periods without precipitation.

In the spring, bury organic fertiliser at the foot of the shrub or spread a large handful of granular fertiliser on the ground; avoid over-fertilisation which could weaken the plant.

As said then the aucuba must be watered all year round, but the soil must not remain moist between one watering and the other.

All’ outdoor The soil must be watered abundantly in summer and less in winter. In summer, when watering, be careful not to wet the leaves, and water in the evening or very early morning.

All’ indoor water even during the winter if the plant is kept in a room with a high temperature.


aucuba The aucubes prefer deep soils, rich in humus and very well drained; for this reason it is advisable not to plant the aucuba japonica in very wet soils because this can promote the onset of disease, while too poor soils slow down the development of the plant that will remain less lush.

If the plant is in a pot, it should be repotted every 2 or 3 years; if it is planted in the ground, it is advisable to mix the soil with organic matter that will improve the entire structure.

Aucuba can be planted in September-October or March-April, and in warmer areas it can be planted at any time of the year.

To improve drainage, it is recommended to place coarse sand or perlite at the bottom of the pot.

In the spring-summer period we suggest to fertilize once a month: add some liquid fertilizer with high nitrogen and potassium content to the water of the watering.


To multiply this variety in spring and autumn it is possible to take semi-woody cuttings, about 15-20 cm long; at that point the leaves are cut in half and rooted in a mixture of peat and sand in equal parts.

The new plants must be grown in a container in a cold greenhouse for at least two years before they can be planted so that they can take root correctly and recover the right strength before being decanted into the ground.

In spring it is also possible to extract small seeds from the berries and sow them in a container.

Cultivation of aucuba






 Half shade, shade


 Clayey, sandy, humus-rich soil



Water requirements



 Regular in summer and sporadic in winter

Soil moisture



 Spring-summer period


 Sowing, cutting


 Ideal temperature: about 200 degrees, but resists for short periods even to -150.

Aucuba in the middle of the earth

For the planting of the aucuba in the ground, dig a hole with a depth and a width of about 60 cm.

Remove residual roots, pebbles or weeds from the soil and add organic matter such as manure. If the soil in which it is planted is poorly drained, add coarse sand.

Proceed as follows for planting:

– place the plant in the water to rehydrate it

– untangle the roots if necessary

– place the shrub in the middle of the hole

– fill the hole with the previously prepared soil

– Press the soil and water thoroughly.

During the following weeks the plant needs abundant watering, especially if the planting has been done in the spring. If you want to create a hedge, place the plants at a certain distance from each other (from about 80 cm to 100 cm).

Aucuba in a vase

If you plant aucuba in a pot, place it in small ceramic or terracotta pots with a diameter of 12 cm to 15 cm if the plant is small, and 13 cm to 20 cm if the plant is already large.

Place a layer of gravel or expanded clay pellets on the bottom of the pot to facilitate drainage. Fill with the previously prepared soil, place the plant in the middle so that the roots are not intertwined. Fill in the empty spaces with the soil. Squeeze the soil slightly and water a little, place the pot in half shade, away from direct sunlight.

Pruning Aucuba

If the aucuba is used to make a hedge, pruning is necessary, otherwise you can do without it: just remove the dried leaves and the damaged branches, or remove the branches, if necessary. Do not prune in autumn or winter, otherwise you may lose the beautiful berries that adorn the plant throughout the winter period, and postpone it to the period February to April.

In the plants used for hedges cut dry branches, those too weak or that protrude in some way from the plant. The base of the hedge should be wider than the top: in this way all parts of the plant will be equally illuminated. Plants that have grown too large and are bare at the base can be pruned decisively in April.

The aucuba calendar




 From July to September


 September-October or March-April




 February, March, April

Propagation of Aucuba

For sowing

The propagation of aucuba through the seeds is a rather long process. Sowing is done in autumn in pots or trays using fresh seeds. When the seedlings have developed, they are repotted into larger containers. The plants are planted after two years. The seeds taken from the different species will produce an identical plant only if it is from the aucuba japonica.

For cutting

Reproduction by cutting may be carried out from July to September. Cuttings 15-20 cm long are taken from the branches of the aucuba and cut with a sharp knife under the knots to facilitate rooting.

Remove the leaves at the base, shorten the others and leave those placed at the end of the cuttings. Immerse the cuttings in the liquid root hormone and plant them in pots with light, draining soil. Cover with transparent plastic or place the pots in a small greenhouse, without exposing them directly to sunlight, at a temperature of about 200 degrees.

In winter protect the plants from frost, but place them in a cool and bright place keeping the soil moist. In the following April, when the roots have come out, place them in a larger pot or in the ground.

Variety of Aucuba

crotonifolia Aucuba japonica variegated

Female variety very common for its ornamental character. It can be placed in full sun, in the shade or in the middle of the shade. The berries are a bright red. The leaves are bright green, speckled with white or intense yellow. Spring flowering with small purple flowers.

Aucuba japonica crotonifolia

Variety with a large yellow speckle. It can be placed in the sun or in the shade. Extremely resistant to low temperatures (up to -150). In autumn it produces red berries.

Aucuba japonica picturata

Variety characterized by a large yellow spot in the central part of the leaves. It can reach a height between 120 cm and 180 cm. Dark green leaves narrow and indented. Bright red berries.

Aucuba japonica: Parasites and diseases

aucuba marginata This type of plant is quite resistant and is not often attacked by diseases and pests.

However, soils that are too moist and not very drained can favour the onset of root rot; in fact, the plant is very sensitive to water stagnation.

Particularly hot summers or excessively sunny positions can favour the development of fungi, which cause the blackening of the apical leaves.

It is also possible that this type of plant is attacked by cochineals; in this case it is necessary to physically eliminate the parasites with the help of a cotton ball with water and alcohol or with specific products.

Check the leaves periodically to make sure that they are not attacked by the mites or mealybugs . If these pests threaten your plant, try removing them with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol. You can also try washing the plant with soap and water. Rub the leaves with a sponge so as to eliminate the parasites and rinse the leaves well to remove the soap.

If the natural staining of the plant appears faded, the light is probably insufficient, so move the plant to a place more exposed to sunlight.

The loss of leaves can be caused by excess water in winter or scarcity in summer. Therefore, water in a controlled manner in winter and more abundantly in summer.

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