Garden Plants, How and where to grow them - Shrubs & Hedging

Cuban or Spotted Laurel
Aucuba japonica - shrub

Aucuba japonica, Spotted or Cuban laurel is a very useful evergreen shrub that has bright shiny leaves and remarkably will grow in shade, even quite dense and dry shade.

If you have a difficult area of the garden where little else will grow, then Aucuba is a must to try. It is perhaps rather more "worthy" than beautiful, but in the most difficult spots, there is nothing that can match its bright healthy leaves. Several varieties are available and the plant is dioecious meaning that individuals are either male or female, but not both unlike most plants.

The balance of yellow/green tends to vary according to how much sunlight the plants get, they are more yellow the more sun they get and more green when in shade.

Crotonifolia and Variegata are the best varieties and both are female so they produce red berries which usually last from the autumn when they appear through to the spring.

Propagation by cuttings is easy, softwood in summer or hardwood in winter.

Often when you buy this plant, it is actually two to four cuttings that have been placed in a single pot and grown on, look carefully. If this is the case, then the first thing you can do is to separate the plants out of the pot and instantly end up with more than you thought you bought! I split them into their own similar sized pots and grow them on a while (2-3 months or so in spring/summer) before planting them in the soil.

  • Height and spread: 3m x 3m (10ft x 10ft) eventually, about 1m x 1m (3ft x 3ft) after 3 years
  • Position: full sun to full shade, some shade needed in areas where summer is very hot. Will withstand salt winds.
  • Soil: almost any, but not waterlogged
  • Rate of growth: slow to average, slower in more difficult situations (darker and drier)
  • Other features: Can be used for hedging, but care needed when trimming to cut stems and not the large leaves
  • Hardiness: fully hardy
  • Garden care: Very little needed, a generous mulch will help, particularly in more difficult conditions. Can be cut back quite hard when established if required without harm. No real pests or diseases, but growing tips sometimes blacken for no apparent reason without affecting the rest of the plant.
  • Uses - Shade shrub, Hedging
  • Planting distance when used for hedging: 30cm, 12"
  • Clipped height: 1-2m, 3-7ft
  • Number of times to clip per season and when: 1 - spring
  • Pruning:  spring.
  • Responds to renovation?: Yes, very large unruly plants can be cut down hard and will recover.

Photo credits: (numbering left to right top to bottom) 1-3268zauber - Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. / 2-Paul Ward - / 3-Paul Ward - / 4-Emoke Denes - Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. / 5-Hectonichus - Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. / 6-Jeantosti - Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. / 7-Kurt Stuber - Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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