Aucuba japonica 'Variegata'

Aucuba japonica Variegata in the garden of June Probert, Sydney

Aucuba japonica 'Variegata' - the gold dust plant - is a Japanese shrub that has been grown for many years in Sydney gardens, valued for its ability to tolerate dry shade. Its glossy green leaves are dappled with golden markings, and it grows slowly but steadily over the years to reach an ultimate height of around 1.8 m. There are other named cultivars, such as 'Crotonifolia', with even stronger variegations of the leaves. There are male and female forms of the shrub; both are required for the female plant to produce its bright red berries (except for a few cultivars which are self-pollinating, such as 'Rozannie'). I have never seen an Aucuba with berries in Sydney but hope to one day!

Although it tolerates neglect, this shrub will respond gratefully if given better treatment: feeding occasionally, mulching and some water. More light, such as in a semi-shaded rather than fully shaded position, will also promote its growth. Too much sun, however, will lead to scorched leaves. It is quite cold hardy. The shrub can be pruned in spring to promote compact growth.