Gold Dust Plant - Aucuba japonica

Botanical Name: Aucuba japonica 'Variegata' 

Green leaves heavily dusted with golden-yellow spots makes Gold Dust Plant a cheery house plant, and a beautiful accent among other foliage plants.

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Get to Know Your Houseplant

You'll have easy success with this compact, upright shrub because it adapts well to indoor conditions.

In fact, it doesn't need much attention to thrive. It grows well in a pot. Just shade it from direct sunlight, keep it cool and well-watered. Prune it back each spring to keep it small.

A. japonica varieties include both male and female plants that produce clusters of tiny purplish flowers in spring. They're not very attractive but if pollinated, the flowers are followed by bright red berries carried on the plant through the winter.

Aucuba japonica is known by a few common names: Gold Dust Plant, Japanese Laurel, Spotted Laurel and Japanese Aucuba. 

'Variegata' is the most popular Gold Dust Plant. However, a few other cultivars are available, including... 

  • 'Crotonifolia' has broad leaves, generously spotted with yellow. 
  • 'Serratifolia' (shown below) has mottled yellow saw-tooth leaves. 
  • 'Picturata' is broadly splashed with yellow-gold across its leaves.

Special Care for Aucuba Japonica

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Prune in spring. Although slow-growing, Gold Dust Plants will get tall and leggy over time. Prune the stems back hard in spring to keep Aucuba japonica a manageable size indoors and to encourage branching.

Pruning tip: Cut stems at a 45° angle, just after a node (the place where a leaf or branch is attached to the stem). Use sharp pruners to avoid tearing the stems.

Repot in spring, moving up to a container 1 size larger every 2-3 years, or when needed. If your Japanese aucuba is already big, you can top-dress instead by removing the top 2-3 (5-7.5 cm) inches of soil and replace it with fresh potting soil.

Clean those beautiful spotted leaves to keep them dust-free. Wipe them off with a damp cloth. Dust build-up on foliage not only looks unsightly, it blocks sunlight and also clogs leaf pores. Avoid leaf shine products, which can cause the same problems. A. japonica has naturally glossy leaves, anyway.

Aucuba Japonica Care Tips

Origin: Cultivar with parents native to Japan and China

Height: Up to 3 ft (90 cm) indoors. Prune to keep the shrub small. 

Light: Bright indirect light. Some cool, direct morning sunlight is fine. Bright, filtered sunlight will help Gold Dust Plant maintain its variegation. Don't move it outdoors unless you have a cool, shady spot for it.

Water: Keep the soil evenly moist from spring through fall. Then, cut back on watering in winter when growth has slowed. It's a good idea to use a pot with drainage holes; water thoroughly to wet all the roots in the pot, then empty the drainage tray.

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Humidity: Average room -- around 40% relative humidity or higher. Because levels can drop drastically in winter, it's a good idea to use a pebble tray or cool-mist humidifier.

Temperature: Cool (45-65°F/7-18°C) temperatures year-round suit this Japanese laurel just fine. In fact, it can tolerate cold -- down to 5°F/-15°C -- and is sometimes grown as an outdoor shrub.

Soil: All-purpose houseplant potting mix

Fertilizer: Feed monthly spring through fall with a water-soluble fertilizer. 

Propagation: Sow Aucuba japonica seed in spring. Or take 4 in (10 cm) stem tip cuttings in spring or summer and root in moist potting mix.

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