The Q&A Archives: Brown Spotted Leaves On Aucuba Shrub

Question: Last year I bought Monrovia's Mr. Goldstrike Aucuba shrub from my local nursery. It survived a very cold and snowy winter. It has new buds on it, but I also saw brown spots on the leaves of the bush. If I picked off the leaves with the brown spots the shrub would 90% bare. What do you suggest I do without taking off the aucuba shrub leaves?

Answer: If the spots are due to winter damage, I would suggest being patient and allowing the new growth to come in, then remove the worst of the still-visible damaged foliage. The new growth should help to conceal some of the damage. That is sort of a compromise solution to allow the plant to have as much foliage as possible for meeting its energy needs encouraging new growth while still improving its immediate appearance.

The alternative would be to trim it back to encourage additional fresh new growth from the base or from below the damaged areas. This plant does not grow very fast (and since it is a new plant, it does not have the large established root system to boost a faster regrowth), so this would probably be my second choice although it is an option.

It might be worth noting that aucuba suffers winter damage and sunburn more often in a location that is shady in summer but turns sunny in the winter. Ideally it is shaded by a building so it stays shady year round. The variegated forms such as this seem to winter burn more easily than the plain green form, too. It will also suffer due to wind. For best results, it needs a sheltered location with an acidic soil that stays evenly moist yet is well drained, meaning not soggy. If your soil is sandy, you would need to add ample organic matter to it to help it keep that steady moisture level.

Finally, aucuba may be subject to some foliar problems with other causes, so if you think it could be something other than winter damage, you might want to consult with your county extension as to the cause of the discoloration and suggestions as to how to handle it. Good luck with your shrub!

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