Native from the Himalayas to Japan. Seedlings vary in leaf form and variegation; many selections are offered. Standard green-leafed aucuba grows at a moderate rate to 610 ft. (sometimes to 15 ft.) high and almost as wide; can be kept lower by pruning. Buxom shrub, densely clothed with polished-looking, tooth-edged, dark green leaves 38 in. long, 112 3 in. wide.
Minute, dark maroon flowers in earliest spring are followed by clusters of bright red, 34-in. berries in fall and winter. Both sexes must be planted to ensure fruit. 'Rozannie', however, is self-fruitful, producing a heavy crop of berries without a pollinator.
Other green-leafed selections include 'Lance Leaf', with smooth-edged, lance-shaped leaves (male); 'Longifolia' ('Salicifolia'), narrow, willowlike foliage (female); 'Nana', dwarf to about 3 ft. (female); 'Serratifolia', long leaves with coarsely toothed edges (female).
Variegated selections (usually slower growing) include 'Crotonifolia', leaves heavily splashed with white and gold (male); 'Fructu-albo', white-variegated leaves and pale pinkish-buff berries (female); 'Picturata' ('Aureo-maculata'), leaves centered with golden yellow, edged with dark green dotted yellow (female); 'Sulphur', green leaves with broad yellow edge (female). 'Variegata', often called gold dust plant, is the best-known aucuba. It has dark green leaves spotted with yellow; plants may be male or female. 'Mr. Goldstrike' (male) and 'Golden King' have heavier gold splashings.
All aucuba selections make choice container plants for shady patio or in the house. Use variegated forms to lighten up dark corners. Plants combine effectively with ferns, hydrangeas.
Japanese aucuba is tolerant of a wide range of soils but will grow and look better if poor or heavy soils are improved. Requires shade from hot sun, accepts deep shade. Grows well in low light under trees, competes successfully with tree roots. Tolerates sea air. Watch for mealybug and mites. Prune to control height or form by cutting back to a leaf joint.