Aucuba japonica is a great shrub for shade. This plant has glossy green leave with yellow variegation. Sometimes the leave have a yellow interior with a green border but the most popular variety has green leaves with yellow speckles. If you live in colder climates it might be a familiar house plant which is often sold as a Gold Dust Plant. In zones 7 to 10 it can be grown out in the garden. This shrub is a foliage plant which is mainly grown for the leaf color.
This shade plant grows to 6 to 10 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide. It loves organic matter added to the soil. When you plant or transplant this shrub you can add as much as 50% organic matter to its soil. You can use shredded leaves or compost to bring the organic content of your soil up. I use a mixture of shredded and whole leaves and a few small twigs that have fallen from the trees. This coarse mixture will slowly decompose and the planting hole will shrink so build up around the plant to allow for further decomposition.
Aucuba japonica is fantastically easy to transplant. If you have one that is planted in the wrong location (or it has outgrown its place) just dig it up and move it to where you want it. When I move mine they don't even wilt unless I really mangle the roots. The Gold Dust Shrub has a shallow root system so you don't have to dig too deep to pull it up. Just dig a wide hole around it to get as much of the roots as possible. Don't freak out if you cut a few roots, it won't mind.
This is an evergreen shrub that has some rather boring purple or blue flowers. It does get some big red berries for added winter interest. If you want berries though you need to make sure you have a male and female plant. This shrub requires both in order to produce fruit. The nursery won't bother to mention that but that's the way it works.
Aucuba japonica makes a great companion for Hosta plants and Heuchera plants. If you have a woodland garden and need a spot of color Aucuba japonica might just fit the bill. It can handle a little sun but likes to be in full to part shade. It is also pretty drought tolerant. It won't require much extra water except in extreme dry times.
If you've ever grown Azaleas or Rhododendrons just treat this plant pretty much the same as those. It likes acid soil just as they do. It is also prone to the same pests so if you've ever had an Azalea die avoid using that spot for Japanese Aucuba. They are vulnerable to a certain type of nematode and that can cause rot or death.
Feel free to prune this plant. It won't act as a formal hedge but you can keep it to your preferred height with a little judicious pruning. Just cut the too high stems back to a fork in the branch and it'll look just fine.