Sawtooth Japanese Aucuba

Aucuba japonica ‘Serratifolia'

2 Reviews

Sawtooth Japanese Aucuba

Aucuba japonica ‘Serratifolia'

2 Reviews


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


The Sawtooth Aucuba is the answer to the problem of deep shade in your garden. It thrives where all other plants fail, and tolerates more year-round shade than anything you can grow. Yet it is also handsome, with an almost tropical look, and large, glossy green leaves with big serrations along the edges. In winter it can carry a big crop of large red berries that last for months, and in 10 years it will be at least 7 feet tall and wide, reaching about 10 feet in time. Grow it in those dark corners and beds under large trees, or along a dark wall. Use it for a shaded hedge or screen. Nothing beats this beautiful shrub for shade tolerance.

  • The most shade-tolerant evergreen there is
  • Big, glossy green leaves with serrated edges
  • Heavy winter crop of large red berries
  • Grows well in poor soils and urban gardens
  • drought tolerant once established

The Sawtooth Aucuba is more cold-resistant than many other forms of the Japanese aucuba, and grows well in zone 6. It thrives in all hot zones, and takes summer heat and humidity well. It grows in any well-drained soil, including poor urban soils and the root-filled soil beneath large trees. After some watering and care during the first years it becomes very drought tolerant, and needs no significant attention. It is usually free of pests and diseases, and deer don’t eat it. A male form of aucuba is needed growing nearby for a good berry crop.

Plant Hardiness Zones 6-10
Mature Width 7-10
Mature Height 7-10
Sun Needs Partial Sun, Shade
Zones 6-10

In warmer parts of the country there are often many evergreen trees, and as the garden matures and grows these throw increasingly more shade, so that dark corners, shady every day of the year, are common. It can be incredibly difficult to find plants that will survive in these ‘dead’ spaces, so we end up with empty areas, with nothing but dirt or mulch to look at. If you are familiar with this problem, and have tried different plants without success, we have the answer for you. The Sawtooth Aucuba is, honesty, the most shade-tolerant plant on the planet, and it will grow where nothing else will. It even stays bushy and dense, sending up new shoots from ground-level as it grows, while other ‘shade-loving’ shrubs only reach for the light, leaving the ground beneath them still bare and even more shady. As well as being incredibly tolerant of darkness, the Sawtooth Aucuba has attractive glossy leaves that are large and much more interesting than the over-planted cherry laurel. Plus, this plant carries huge crops of bright red berries in winter, brightening those dark corners even more. You have to grow it to believe how great this plant is, so say ‘goodbye’ to blank earth, and ‘hello’ to the Sawtooth Aucuba.

Growing the Sawtooth Aucuba

Size and Appearance

The Sawtooth Aucuba is an evergreen shrub that will be about 7 feet tall and wide within 10 years, and grow to 10 feet tall and wide in time. It forms a broad, bushy plant with many branches, or it can be trimmed into a form more like a multi-stem tree. The older branches are dark brown, with a smooth to slightly rough surface, and the young stems are green. The foliage is the big attraction with this shrub. The leaves are large, up to 10 inches long and 4 inches wide, with a smooth, glossy surface, a deep green color, and a pronounced sawtooth edge, with large ‘teeth’ along both edges. These are not sharp, and they give the plant a distinctive, almost tropical look.

The parent species of this plant is dioecious – it has separate male and female trees. The Sawtooth Aucuba is a female tree, and it flowers early, usually in March or April. The flowers are not showy, and hang in clusters from the base of the leaves, several flowers in each cluster, with small, purplish-white petals. If there is a male tree nearby to pollinate it, the flowers develop over summer into green berries, a half-inch across, which turn bright red in late fall. Birds don’t eat them so they stay for months, making a lovely show. This variety carries the heaviest crop of berries of any Aucuba.

Using the Sawtooth Aucuba in Your Garden

This plant is your answer to those shady places where nothing will grow. It brings great foliage and rich green to dark corners. It even out-performs the yellow-spotted aucubas for shade tolerance. Use it beneath evergreen trees, up against a dark wall, or as a hedge or screen in shady areas. It can be trimmed into a tight wall of green, or allowed to grow more naturally, when it will still be dense and bushy.


This is one of the hardiest types of aucuba, and it grows well in zone 6 if not planted in an exposed position. It thrives all through the warmer zones, from zone 7 to zone 10.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

In zones 6 and 7 you could grow this shrub with some morning sun, or winter sunshine, but it loves the shade so much it prefers at least some shade, and is perfectly happy in dark, full shade all day long, all year round. It grows in most garden soils, including poor soil, and it competes well with existing tree roots, after a bit of extra attention while it becomes established. It grows well in urban areas, tolerating construction soil and air pollution. Any well-drained soil will be fine, although we do recommend you enrich the soil with organic material when planting, and water regularly for the first couple of years.

Maintenance and Pruning

The Sawtooth Aucuba is normally free of pests and diseases and ignored by deer. Once established it is very drought tolerant, and it takes the salt air of coastal regions without burning. If you don’t feel like trimming, don’t, because it always stays bushy. If you want a neater look, and to keep the base full and green, trimming the upper parts narrower is easy to do in spring or early summer. Don’t use shears, as this will cut the leaves. Instead use pruners, and just cut back to the last couple of leaves on a stem. Even bare stems will usually re-sprout on established plants.

History and Origin of the Sawtooth Aucuba

The Japanese Aucuba, Aucuba japonica, can be found growing wild in the forests of Japan, China and Korea. The first plants were brought to England from Japan in 1783 and grown as a greenhouse plant at first. That first plant had leaves splashed with gold spots, and it is called ‘Variegata’, or the Gold Dust Aucuba, which is still a great plant to grow. It was widely grown during the Industrial Revolution, because it would tolerate the gloom, smog and smoky air of 19th century cities. There are many varieties, some brought from Japan and China, others developed in Europe and America, but they are often confused, and we know almost nothing about their origins. The Sawtooth Aucuba is officially called ‘Serratifolia’.

Buying the Sawtooth Aucuba at the Tree Center

If your garden is cursed with shade, the Sawtooth Aucuba is the blessing you need. This is the most shade-tolerant of all the varieties of Japanese aucuba, so it is in high demand. Order now while our supplies hold out, because they will soon be gone.

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Sawtooth Japanese Aucuba

Aucuba japonica ‘Serratifolia'

2 Reviews