Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’: Spotted Laurel

The evergreen plants of the subtropical forests of south-east Asia have provided horticulture with many fine specimens, mostly with decorative foliage, and aucubas are among those included. In cultivation it is necessary to satisfy their natural requirements. Most need ample amounts of fresh air, a rather moist atmosphere and cool conditions in winter. That is why they are generally used for decoration in a foyer or conservatory, being moved in summer to the garden, patio or balcony. The genus Aucuba comprises only three species from the Himalayas and east Asia.

Aucuba japonica is a shrub native to Japan and southern Korea, where it forms part of the evergreen vegetation at elevations of about 600 m (1,900 ft) above sea level. In the wild it reaches a height of 5 m (16 ft) and is always found in the shade of larger trees.

The species is plain green, but many cultivars were raised over the years. Others that are worthy of note include: ‘Crassifolia’ (leaves exceptionally thick, leathery); ‘Hillieri’ (leaves green, narrowly-lanceolate, about 12 cm [4-½ in] long); and ‘Luteocarpa’ (leaves dentate, spotted with yellow, berries yellow).

Because A. japonica is a unisexual shrub and the cultivars are multiplied by vegetative means, many comprise either only male or female specimens. Cul-tivation is very easy. Aucubas should by grown in nourishing, humusy loam with an addition of peat and during the growing season provided with liberal applications of water and feed. When trimming the shrub the prunings may be used as cuttings which will root rapidly in a warm propagator (about 20°C [68°F]).

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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