Q: Last year I bought a bunch of Acubas. In with them was a plant a lot like the rest but with a different leaf. The leaf is seven inches long and two inches wide and is a dark green in color. This spring it produced large bright red berries. In another part of the garden I have several Acubas that just turned black and died, they were over fifteen years old and six feet high. Do you have any ideas?
A: I think the green leafed plant is simply another aucuba, without the typical variegated leaves. The red berries are aucuba seed. Aucuba, like holly, is dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female plants. Only females produce berries but their leaves are identical otherwise.
Aucuba is typically propagated by cuttings taken from random plants in a nursery so you’re very likely to get at least one male if you buy five or six plants.
Aucuba dieback usually happens where the soil stays constantly damp or where mulch is piles around the lower stem. Prune back to healthy tissue and consider reworking the bed and replanting.