How to Plant and Grow Gold Dust Plant

This shrub will brighten shady parts of your garden with its yellow-speckled leaves.

Gold dust plant (Aucuba japonica) is an all-star component of a low-maintenance shade border. This slow-growing, evergreen shrub has yellow-speckled foliage it keeps year-round, providing color and texture when other plants go dormant for winter.

Gold dust plant is grown for its foliage. It has berries and flowers as well, but they are small and insignificant.

Gold Dust Plant Overview

Genus Name Aucuba
Common Name Gold Dust Plant
Plant Type Shrub
Light Part Sun, Shade
Height 3 to 10 feet
Width 3 to 10 feet
Flower Color White
Season Features Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Drought Tolerant

Where to Plant Gold Dust Plant

Plant gold dust plants in a shade garden with moist, well-draining soil. It is cold-hardy in USDA zones 6-10, where it is especially well-suited for creating a privacy screen. It grows well under shade trees where nothing else grows, and it also works well as a houseplant in all zones.

How and When to Plant Gold Dust Plant

Plant nursery-grown transplants of gold dust plant in spring after the last frost. Before planting, water the transplant deeply, select a shady location, and enrich the soil with compost to provide excellent drainage. Dig a hole in the amended soil that is as tall as the nursery container and slightly wider. Set the plant in the hole at the same soil line as it was in its container. Backfill with amended soil, pressing down with your hands to eliminate air pockets. Water the transplant at ground level to keep its leaves dry.

Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of shredded mulch or compost over the root zone after planting. Water plants regularly throughout the first growing season.

Gold Dust Plant Care Tips

With the right care, gold dust plant is a go-to star performer for gardeners with shady gardens.


Gold dust plant thrives in full shade. It can tolerate a few hours of morning sunlight, but its leaves scorch when exposed to extended periods of full sun.

Soil and Water

A woodland plant, gold dust plant thrives in rich, deep, moist soil that is well-drained. Simplify maintenance by covering the ground around the shrubs with a 2-inch-thick layer of shredded mulch to suppress weeds and prevent soil-moisture loss.

Mature plants only need to be watered every couple of weeks, while newly planted transplants need water once or twice a week until they are established.

Temperature and Humidity

Gold dust plants prefer a cool 45°F-65°F climate and can survive temperatures down to -5°F. The plant needs high humidity to thrive. When gold dust plant is grown as a houseplant, set the container on a saucer of rocks and water to provide extra humidity.


Fertilize your gold dust plants with a slow-release balanced granular fertilizer in early spring. It's important not to overfertilize these plants. Indoors, fertilize the plant with a balanced liquid plant fertilizer monthly during the growing season. Stop fertilizing during the cold season when growth is minimal.


Gold dust plant requires only simple pruning in spring to maintain the desired size and shape.

Potting and Repotting

Gold dust plant is an excellent houseplant when planted in a container with drainage holes. Fill a container slightly larger than the plant with potting soil, place the plant in the container, and water it well. Keep it in bright light in a location no warmer than 65°F. The soil needs to remain moist (not wet) throughout the growing season (spring through fall); fertilize it monthly during that time with a balanced liquid fertilizer following the product instructions.

Because gold dust plant is such a slow grower, you probably won't have to transplant it for several years.

Pests and Problems

Mature gold dust plants are pest-resistant, but young plants are susceptible to infestations of aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects, particularly when they are grown as houseplants. These pests can be treated with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.

The main problems with gold dust plants outdoors are root-rot disease, which occurs when the soil isn't well-draining, and brown leaf spots, which are scorch marks from exposure to hot direct sun.

How to Propagate Gold Dust Plant

Propagate gold dust plants with stem cuttings. In the spring, choose from stem tips. In summer, semi-ripe stems are a better choice. Cut 4-inch sections. Fill small pots with a commercial rooting medium (or a combination of vermiculite, compost and sand) and moisten it. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of each cutting and cut the rest of the leaves in half. Stick the cuttings in the rooting medium and don't let any leaves touch the medium. No rooting hormone is needed. Place the pot inside a clear plastic bag and close it with a twist tie. Open it only to water when the medium looks slightly dry.

In a couple of weeks, test to see if the plant has rooted by gently tugging on a leaf or seeing roots in the drainage hole. When it has developed a robust root system, repot it in a pot with fresh potting soil.

Gold dust cuttings will root in water, but the roots will be small and weak, so this method isn't recommended.

Types of Gold Dust Plant

'Variegata' Aucuba

Variegata plant Aucuba japonica
Cynthia Haynes

Aucuba japonica 'Variegata' is a female selection that flaunts gold flecks and spots scattered on dark green leaves. It grows 10 feet tall and wide. Zones 7-9

'Picturata' Aucuba

Picturata Aucuba
Denny Schrock

This variety of Aucuba japonica is known for showy dark green leaves with bright golden-yellow centers. It will produce berries if a male pollinizer is nearby. Zones 6-10

'Gold Dust' Aucuba

Gold Dust Aucuba
Tony Walsh

Aucuba 'Gold Dust' is a long-time favorite female selection with leaves generously dusted with gold specks. It grows 10 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-10

Companion Plants for Gold Dust Plant

Pair gold dust plant with camellia, hydrangea, fatsia, and rhododendron for a colorful, easy-care shrub planting that provides interest year-round.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do gold dust plants live in the landscape?

    When planted in ideal conditions, gold dust plants live up to 20 years in the garden.

  • How fast do gold dust plants grow?

    Gold dust plants are slow-growing. It can take 10 or more years for a 6-to-10-foot tall plant to reach its mature height.

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