Aucuba, Gold Dust Plant, Japanese Laurel, Variegated Japanese Aucuba 'Variegata'

Aucuba japonica

Family: Garryaceae
Genus: Aucuba (AWK-yoo-bah) (Info)
Species: japonica (juh-PON-ih-kuh) (Info)
Cultivar: Variegata
Additional cultivar information:(aka Gold Dust, Maculata, Punctata)



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Partial to Full Shade


Grown for foliage


Good Fall Color

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)


USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone


Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From softwood cuttings

From semi-hardwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:

Unknown - Tell us


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:


Wetumpka, Alabama

Solgohachia, Arkansas

Bakersfield, California

Bootjack, California

Ceres, California

Chowchilla, California

Fresno, California(2 reports)

Highlands-Baywood Park, California

Huntington Beach, California

Knights Landing, California

Los Angeles, California

Mariposa, California(2 reports)

Martinez, California

Norwalk, California

Pollock Pines, California

Roseville, California

San Mateo, California

Stockton, California

Thousand Oaks, California

Vacaville, California

East Hartford, Connecticut

Bear, Delaware

Dover, Delaware

Ellendale, Delaware

Wilmington, Delaware

Washington, District of Columbia

Fernandina Beach, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida

Navarre, Florida

West Palm Beach, Florida

Atlanta, Georgia(2 reports)

Carrollton, Georgia

Cedartown, Georgia

Dallas, Georgia

Decatur, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

Villa Rica, Georgia

Lawrence, Kansas

Barbourville, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Annapolis, Maryland

Dunkirk, Maryland

Lutherville Timonium, Maryland

Millersville, Maryland

Pikesville, Maryland

Rockville, Maryland

Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Harwich Port, Massachusetts

Batesville, Mississippi

Jackson, Mississippi

Madison, Mississippi

Marietta, Mississippi

Raymond, Mississippi

Waynesboro, Mississippi

Las Vegas, Nevada

Collingswood, New Jersey

Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey

Mount Laurel, New Jersey

Neptune, New Jersey

Hurley, New York

Locust Valley, New York

New Hyde Park, New York

New York City, New York

Roslyn, New York

Cary, North Carolina

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina(2 reports)

Columbus, North Carolina

Durham, North Carolina

Efland, North Carolina

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Hillsborough, North Carolina

Louisburg, North Carolina

Mooresville, North Carolina

New Bern, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina(2 reports)

Cincinnati, Ohio

Checotah, Oklahoma

Stillwater, Oklahoma

Ashland, Oregon

Salem, Oregon

South Beach, Oregon

Abington, Pennsylvania

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania

Lansdowne, Pennsylvania

Mount Joy, Pennsylvania

Wrightsville, Pennsylvania

Florence, South Carolina

Irmo, South Carolina

Ladson, South Carolina

North Augusta, South Carolina

Rock Hill, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina

Sumter, South Carolina

Knoxville, Tennessee

Murfreesboro, Tennessee(3 reports)

Nashville, Tennessee(2 reports)

Pikeville, Tennessee

Woodlawn, Tennessee

Athens, Texas

Austin, Texas

Dallas, Texas(2 reports)

Desoto, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas(3 reports)

Houston, Texas

Irving, Texas

Jacksonville, Texas

Katy, Texas

Richmond, Texas

San Antonio, Texas(2 reports)

Yantis, Texas

Orem, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah

Alexandria, Virginia(2 reports)

Hood, Virginia

Leesburg, Virginia

Newport News, Virginia

Norfolk, Virginia

Springfield, Virginia

Anacortes, Washington

Bellingham, Washington

Puyallup, Washington

Seattle, Washington(2 reports)

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Mar 5, 2021, UtahTropics12 from Salt Lake City, UT (Zone 7b) wrote:

This exotic evergreen plant is just awesome! I have seen these planted all over Salt Lake City, Utah (zone 7b) and they seem to do amazing here long term in part shade. I have seen giant hedges of Acuba 10 ft + across and high around the city. I would say this plant is more likely hardy to only zone 7a (0 F) at the most if you want to keep it looking presentable throughout winter. Acuba doesnt seem to ever get damaged here in the winter, as our temps RARELY ever fall to 10 F. But it is definitely a whole different story in the summer... the 100 degree temps in full sun will definitely burn this plant, that is why it is recommended for part shade here in this climate. This is one of the most exotic and tropical looking hardy evergreens youre ever going to find, and I would 100% recommend ... read more


On May 29, 2016, semiretired from Washington, DC wrote:

Planted two of these in Washington DC. One of them was planted in total shade where nothing grows and promptly bit the dust.

The other is on the south side of the house where it gets mixed sun/shade until noon and then shade in the afternoon. Left to its own devices, it grows quite tall (over 8'). The trunks will bend over under heavy snow, but bounce back if brushed off promptly. Otherwise, it responds well to springtime pruning.


On May 25, 2016, nford from Hot Springs Village, AR (Zone 7b) wrote:

We have had this plant for 17 years. We keep it cut back to 3'-4'. Never had any kind of problem with it. It's in the sprinkler system, but we recently started a new one in a shady spot outside the sprinkler system and it is doing fine. Zone 7b.


On May 23, 2016, theresa94402 from Highlands-Baywood Park, CA wrote:

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and this plant is the least maintenance one in my yard. Its in a shady spot, about 10 years old, gets watered only once in a while and pruned back once a year or whenever I see blackened leaves which show up always on the top.
No berries or flowers ever but the leaves are beautiful. Will try to propagate in water as seen in comments.


On May 23, 2016, NCMstGardener from Columbus, NC (Zone 7b) wrote:

A very attractive plant found throughout the South. It often suffers from root rot so a well drained location is vital. While it grows well in our area, we removed ours after the deer ruined it.


On Dec 25, 2015, BotanicalBoi from Carrollton, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

I love the ease of this plant. It was at our home when we purchased it. About 5 years ago it was about 10 ft. tall. It is now to the top of the eaves. The berries are beautiful for winter interest even though the plant is evergreen for us here in 7B. We were extremely luck that the previous owners of our land were gardeners. We acquired 20+ large azaleas, camellias, gardenias and acres of other garden goodies.


On Feb 21, 2014, Brandon2 from Brandon, MS wrote:

I have 2 plants on the front of my home for 30 plus years. The plant sends out runners beside the original plant creating additional plants. I have put plants in the wooden shaded area using the plants created by these runners.
I had a bad black mold problem on the original 2 plants. I called the county agent and was told the problem was the result of roots having too much mulching. I removed the mulching down to where I saw the fibrous roots. I put a little soil back on these. The new leaves came in green and free of the black mold.
The roots aren't deep. The plant needs the shade and little water when the leaves wilted a little.
I hope this helps someone.


On Aug 25, 2012, gregr18 from Bridgewater, MA (Zone 6b) wrote:

I've had success in zone 6b (SE Massachusetts) with this plant. Zero degrees F killed a few leaves, but other than that, it remained healthy and green. As others have suggested, there is potential for this plant in zone 6 gardens.


On Oct 4, 2011, valiam from Safety Harbor, FL wrote:

I grew this plant in Richmond, Virginia for years. It lined my house on the wall on the north side of the house, which was shaded for most of the day. I never did anything to protect it from the cold or snow. In the winter I would cut off several large cuttings and place them in a vase of water. They would brighten up the house for weeks at a time and would root while in the vase. My plants did occasionally have black leaves, but I would periodically cut them back so there was usually new growth.


On Jul 12, 2011, loovejonesx from Durham, NC wrote:

I purchased mine ten years ago when I bought my house. It is in a dappled shady spot that would get no direct sunlight. It grew very slowly, but in the third year of having it, it exploded, & now is one of the main attractions of my backyard & seems VERY healthy!!


On Jul 11, 2011, steinbeck from Dallas, TX wrote:

There is a very simple, beautiful contemporary house near me with many of them in front doing great and it is a beautiful site. The must do very well here in Dallas.


On Jul 11, 2011, witchy1 from Houston, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I am neutral about this plant because I have tried to grow 2 of them - only 1 seems to be surviving. Slowly but surely the leafs and the stems on the other one are turning black. As it is in shade, I believe it has a fungus or is diseased. I have sprayed it well a few times but it continues to die little by little. It is approx 2 years old and growing in a large pot.


On Jul 11, 2011, CherokeeGreg from Fresno, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I didnot know what this plant was until today. I didnot know it needed to be in shade. Mine is in sun and its doing great. I love the color.


On May 14, 2011, atinjohn from Pikeville, TN wrote:

Acuba Golddust is about as carefree as you can get. I am growing 7 plants in full shade from deciduous trees, with some receiving dappled morning sunlight in the summer. Drought tolerant, easy to transplant, even easier to propagate and attractive year round.


On Jun 15, 2010, p2tso from Los Angeles, CA wrote:

I inherited this plant 2 years ago when we moved to a new house. Didn't know what it was until yesterday. So in the last 2 years, I've done very little to it - it gets some water twice a week because the lawn sprinklers water the adjacent area of grass, but no additional. It's in a partially shaded spot under another large yucca-type plant and our soil is on the clay side. It has grown quite a bit this past winter, about a foot, with average rainfall for this area, and it looks quite pretty. Only negative is that last summer, the exterior leaves scorched black. It will probably do so again this summer. Seems to bounce back though.


On Apr 29, 2010, ThePaleMoonLite from Alexandria, VA wrote:

I live in an apartment and I have a Gold Dust plant in a pot inside my apartment. My plant looks beautiful and healthy.


On Nov 4, 2009, purplesun from Krapets,
Bulgaria (Zone 8a) wrote:

I grow this in the shadiest possible corner of my yard in Sofia, 2300 feet AMSL, zone 6b. Have had no problems whatsoever with Gold Dust Plant. It has been crushed by loads of cleared snow, and has regrown vigorously. Its site never seems to dry out.
There is one thing you should keep in mind with this plant and that is - avoid DIRECT sunlight. I've seen plants in such sunny situations and they look horrible, all burned and ailing.
I've seen hedges of this in Prague, Czech republic, tall plants in Bratislava, Slovakia, and they were all wonderful.


On Apr 9, 2009, SwampYankee from East Hartford, CT (Zone 6a) wrote:

Aucuba is beyond its reported hardiness zone here in the Connecticut River Valley near Hartford, but I'm told they do well on the Connecticut Sound and Long Island. I rooted two cuttings taken in Richmond, VA in 2001 and planted one on the north side of my house and one to the north of a yew hedge; both locations are bright shade. The first winter I protected the young plants with an overturned peach basket full of oak leaves. Since then, they have slowly grown to about 4' without protection or pampering, and are lush and full. Aucuba does best in cool damp climates like the Pacific Northwest, so here they are merely a curiosity. I've heard they are massive in Ireland.


On Dec 14, 2008, RichPugetSound from Oak Harbor, WA wrote:

I have this plant. It's been pretty tough. I cut it back down to the ground when I didn't know what it was and it came back. This should give a clue that pruning won't kill it. It will put off new buds from the sticks left after pruning but I recommend testing on your own plant. Mine is in full sun but I have to make sure it gets water once a week when it gets into the 80's or higher. It doesn't like frost. I have a PVC frame around mine and cover it on frosty/freezing nites and that prevents the black tips. My plant is less than 4 ft high and has taken 6 years to grow that tall from being cut back to the ground.


On Nov 9, 2008, spanky_MD from Baltimore, MD wrote:

I had one of these in a sheltered spot next to the house where it got a little late afternoon sun. It thrived for years, even when I cut it back severely several times. I threw the cuttings in a pile in the shade of a pine tree and a year later found two little new plants sprouting from them. I also took a stem cutting and grew a plant indoors.

Deer DO eat this shrub in my yard, however. That's the only negative to it. I bought another one and the deer ate it to the ground over the winter. It came back nicely and this winter I will put up some kind of protection around it.


On Oct 26, 2008, kjmcgrt from Monroe, NC wrote:

I recently moved into a house with 2 of these in the yard. They obviously like the conditions, close to the house, south side, mostly shade, zone 7. The larger one is about 7 ft tall and at least 5 ft around, both very full and healthy looking. Can anyone tell me about cutting them back? They have grown to partially block the entry sidewalk. When to cut back-spring? fall? and how much without hurting the plant? Thanks.


On Apr 29, 2008, vetaflame from San Diego, CA wrote:

I love the way this plant looks, but I have had no success getting it to grow in my San Diego garden. It burns up in the sun and fails to thrive in the shade. I've tried several plants in different areas in my garden, but they always die. Almost everything thrives in my garden, but this plant has been quite a disappointment to me.


On Jun 27, 2007, gammyscircus wrote:

Deer hate this plant/bush. But I love it, only I cannot get it to grow in a pot. I've kept it in shade and check it every week only to find the the stalks are getting soft. I'll try the method of just putting them in water for a few weeks.


On May 16, 2007, collies4u from Checotah, OK wrote:

My friend's mother from Maryland gave me a start of this plant last January (2007). I brought it back to Oklahoma on the plane with me wrapped in wet paper towels in a plastic bag. I put it in a container of just regular tap water. In about 30 days, roots started growing, then about 3 months after I put it in water, a small puple flower appeared close to the water line. I was so amazed by it I took a close-up of it, which I'll try to send. It reminded me of a very tiny water lily. I haven't seen any other pictures of these flowers like this.


On Apr 21, 2007, tropicalbear from Cincinnati, OH wrote:

Very nice plants! One of a very few evergreen plants in this area that have a tropical look. Had some varigated sports that I took cuttings from - turned out quite nice- hope to post pics soon.


On Apr 28, 2006, Savage223 from Elizabethtown, PA wrote:

I have two of these plants which were planted in 1987. They stand 3-1/2 feet tall at this time. I have never seen any "fruit" on these- probably due to the lack of gender or nearby opposing gendered plants.

I live in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which is between the two other PA locations listed.

They have been a hardy plant set, considering they're located on the border of the driveway where salt and road contaminants can get washed into their beds easily.

I, too, have experienced the blackened tips of the plants- though I wasn't sure if this was winter damage or sunlight. (They are located right next to the house on the east side, and receive light only between the hours of 10am and noon during the winter.) The black tips snap off on their own d... read more


On Sep 3, 2004, pokerboy from Canberra,
Australia (Zone 8b) wrote:

This plant supplies great foliage for the area of my shaded patio. It grows slowly and if a male and female plant are close to each other the female plant may produce bright red berries all winter long. pokerboy.


On Apr 30, 2004, Paulwhwest from Irving (Dallas area), TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

It sure isn't fast growing, but my experience has been that it is quite easy-going. It's very disease resistant, and pretty drought tolerant. On top of that it's beautiful all year around.


On Apr 25, 2004, wnstarr from Puyallup, WA (Zone 5a) wrote:

Edgewood, Wa. I have one growing in the woods behind my house. It is in the shade and I keep it trimmed to block any future development. It is a bush that stands 10-14 foot tall and is just as wide. Is a bright spot in the dark green of the woods. I have broken off limbs about 8-12 inches long and stuck them directly into the soil. The have rooted, no hormone, just keep them moist. Make a great looking hedge.


On Mar 17, 2004, youreit from Knights Landing, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

After I bought this plant, and my mom told me she'd grown this successfully years ago in the San Jose, CA, area, which has semi-coastal influence, I almost threw it out. I live in the border area of Sunset zones 8 & 14 in N. California, which gets very hot in the summer. I planted it in full shade last year, and it's growing like crazy now, the new light green leaves contrasting beautifully with the older growth. It's only about 1 ft. tall now, so I look forward to more growth in the future.

UPDATE - 03/03/2010
Yikes, 6 years later, and my poor plant has been destroyed by the neighbors! They cut back an oleander and a walnut tree to the west, making my shady area into an afternoon-sun area. Black leaves, no new growth - it's sad. Rest in pieces, Aucuba.


On Feb 23, 2004, plantenough wrote:

you can't kill it. I've had to have several trees removed in my back yard, and each time these bushes are right in the way of the truck access. they cut them down to nubbs, and one year later there 3 feet tall again.


On Jul 16, 2003, lakebird from (Zone 7b) wrote:

In my area, this plant is like "Deer Candy". Deer have completely destroyed my 3 plants.


On Sep 5, 2002, cbudt wrote:

I've found that sun damage results in blackened leaves.


On Aug 28, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Can only tolerate sunny spots in cooler sun can cause sunburn and defoliation. Flowers are very small. Pest problems include nematodes. Must have well drained soil or the roots will rot.


On Jun 18, 2002, mosaic wrote:

This plant is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are produced on separate individuals. The female plants will produce attractive clusters of bright scarlet fruit in the late fall and winter if there's a male plant close by.


On Mar 7, 2001, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

Probably the best-known aucuba, has dark green glossy leaves spotted with yellow. Requires shade from hot sun; accepts deep shade. Nice container plants for shady terraces, or plant underneath trees where they will tolerate low light and successfully compete with tree roots.