Spotted Japanese AucubaAucuba japonica ‘Picturata'
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Aucuba japonica ‘Picturata'
Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
The Picturata Aucuba is one of the most shade tolerant shrubs available. It grows well in deep, full shade, staying bushy and rounded. It reaches 4 to 6 feet after a few years, eventually growing even taller. The large leathery leaves have a bold golden-yellow center with a green margin spotted with gold. Bring brightness to your darkest beds with this great evergreen, which thrives where nothing else will. Grow it as a houseplant in colder zones, all year round or outdoors during the summer months. It looks great in a tub on a shady patio.
The Picturata Aucuba will grow well even in zone 6, and it thrives in all the warm zones, including southern Florida. It grows in all well-drained soils, including poor urban soils, the soil beneath large trees, and in coastal soils as well. It is normally free of pests or diseases, and untroubled by deer. It can be trimmed with hand pruners if you want, but its natural bushy form makes it basically maintenance-free.
Gardens come in many shapes and sizes. We design them in many styles, and plant them in many different ways. But there is one thing they almost all have in common and that is shade. There are many plants that can grow in partial shade, with just a few hours of direct sun each day, but very few that can tolerate full shade. These spots become ‘dead zones’, where only bare, dry soil is seen, and they spoil the fullness and rich vegetation of the ideal garden. If this is something you experience, then it’s time you met the Aucuba bush. This amazing Japanese shrub is certainly the most shade tolerant of plants. Yes, you do need to live in a warmer zone, but perhaps you have shady places in your home too, in colder, dark rooms? If so, Aucuba is still your friend, and you can always move your plant outdoors for the summer months, making it do ‘double duty’. Most Aucuba have leaves that are mottled in green or gold, but one, the Spotted Japanese Aucuba, has unique foliage that is bold yellow, with a green border. It is the boldest of the family and brings light to dark, shady spots like nothing else can.
The Picturata Aucuba is a rounded evergreen shrub that grows 4 to 6 feet tall, and at least that wide, in less than 10 years. It will slowly grow larger, and could eventually become 10 feet tall and wide, if left untrimmed. The branches stay close to the ground, and it covers a large area. Unlike many other shade plants it doesn’t grow tall over the years and expose the ground beneath it, and the leaves are densely arranged, keeping this plant very full and bushy. The bark is dark brown when mature, and green on young stems. The adjective ‘picturata’ means ‘painted’, and this is an excellent description, because each leaf looks like someone took a paintbrush and colored the center a rich golden yellow. Some of the paint splashed onto the rest of the leaf too, because the green margin has golden spots scattered among the green. This pattern is unique among Aucuba shrubs, which usually have foliage that is uniformly mottled green and gold. The leaves are up to 6 inches long and 4 inches wide, with an oval shape, a leathery texture and a smooth, glossy surface. The leaf edge has a few slight serrations along it, and a pointed tip.
Aucuba have separate male and female trees, like holly bushes, and if you have a male tree nearby you will be rewarded with clusters of bright red berries from late fall through the winter. These are not taken by birds, and they last on the bush for months.
This plant is ideal for shady spots where other shrubs won’t grow, but it is too lovely to just be a plant of ‘last resort’. It is colorful and bright all year round, and does wonders for your beds of green bushes in any slightly or completely shady part of your garden. It can be grown indoors in a cool room all year round or just during winter, and stood outdoors in its pot to decorate a terrace, or place it right in your beds in that dull shady corner. In the warmest zones it can be grown outdoors in a pot all year round.
This shrub will grow outdoors all the way from zone 6 into zone 10 – and of course in any zone if you bring it indoors for the winter.
The Picurata Aucuba will grow happily in some sun, especially morning sun, in cooler zones, but its great strength is the ability to grow in full shade, even the dark shade beneath evergreen trees and large shrubs. It also grows well on the north side of buildings. Not only is it incredibly shade tolerant, it grows in any well-drained soil, including poor urban soils and the depleted soil beneath trees, even when it’s filled with existing roots. It is best to dig a good-sized hole for planting, if you can, so that it can establish quickly, but it certainly holds its own once established, and keeps on growing strongly.
Free of pests of diseases, and ignored by deer, the Picturata Aucuba is also tolerant of salt air, and of drought (once established). Some mulch and regular water for the first few years will really help in the most difficult spots. It needs no particular attention at all, and will warn you if it is dry by drooping its leaves. You don’t need to trim, as it stays bushy, but you can trim a little for neatness if you wish. Use hand pruners, not hedge trimmers, so that you don’t cut the leaves. Bare stems will re-sprout if you have to cut hard.
You would find the Japanese Aucuba, Aucuba japonica, growing wild in Japan, and in Korea and China as well. It was brought to Europe from Japan in 1783, and grown in greenhouses and homes at first, with the name Gold Dust Aucuba. It tolerated the gloom and air pollution of dirty 19th century cities, and became very widely grown. As so often happens, people became tired of seeing it, and it fell out of favor. A new generation, free of prejudice, is discovering it again, and how attractive and incredibly useful it is. We know very little about the different varieties, and we have no idea where the variety called ‘Picturata’ came from – just that it is probably the brightest and most striking of them all.
Lift the curse of shade on your garden with the magic spell of the Picturata Aucuba. The enthusiasm for this great plant grows every year, for outdoors and as a houseplant. So order now, because this variety is not widely available, and always snapped up as soon as we have it in stock.