Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Plant pests

Plants Japanese Beetles Tend to Avoid

Japanese beetle. Photo: Benny Mazur, Flickr

Japanese beetle season is upon us or almost upon us, depending on where you live. Not that Japanese beetles (Popilia japonica) are found everywhere, but they are spreading throughout both Europe and North America and chances are that, if your garden isn’t presently under attack, it will be one day soon.

20170620B Luk, WC
Japanese beetles skeletonize the leaves of their favourite plants, yet ignore others. Photo: Luke, Wikimedia Commons.

The problem with these voracious insects is that they have such a wide host range: over 300 species of plants, including vegetables, annuals, perennials, climbers, trees, shrubs and even conifers … well, actually, they don’t much like evergreen conifers, but love the deciduous ones (larch, bald cypress, etc.). About the only plant group they avoid entirely is aquatic plants: they’re just not that great at diving!

If you want to learn more about eliminating Japanese beetles, you can read controlling those #$@&%* Japanese Beetles. But if you’re a laidback gardener, the real secret of success with Japanese beetles is to get rid of the plants they love and replace them with ones they don’t like.

Plants That Japanese Beetles Hate

I’ve already published an article on Japanese Beetle Host Plants, in other words, plants you should avoid growing. What follows is a list of plants that Japanese beetles dislike. They tend to avoid them even when other plants nearby are almost totally defoliated. And if ever they do nibble a leaf or flower here and there, the damage should be so light as to be unnoticeable.

  1. Abies concolor (white fir)
  2. Acer negundo (boxelder, Manitoba maple)
  3. Acer rubrum (red maple)
  4. Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
  5. Actinidia polygama (silver vine)
  6. Achillea (yarrow)
  7. Adiantum (maidenhair fern)
  8. Ageratum (ageratum, floss flower)
  9. Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
  10. Albizia julibrissin (silk tree)
  11. Allium (onion, garlic, leek, chives)
  12. Antirrhinum majus (snapdragon)
  13. Aquilegia (columbine)
  14. Artemisia absinthium (wormwood)
  15. Asclepias (milkweed)
  16. Astrantia (masterwort)
  17. Baptisia (false indigo)
  18. Begonia (begonia)
  19. Brassica oleracea (cabbage, kale)
  20. Buxus (boxwood)
  21. Caladium (caladium)
  22. Callicarpa (beautybush)
  23. Calycanthus floridus (Carolina allspice)
  24. Carya (hickory)
  25. Celastrus (bittersweet)
  26. Centaurea (cornflower)
  27. Cercis (redbud)
  28. Chamaecyparis (cypress)
  29. Chelone (turtlehead)
  30. Consolida (larkspur)
  31. Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley)
  32. Coreopsis (tickseed)
  33. Cornus (flowering dogwood)
  34. Cosmos (cosmos)
  35. Cotinus (smoketree)
  36. Cryptomeria japonica (cryptomeria)
  37. Dianthus (pink, carnation)
  38. Dicentra (bleeding heart)
  39. Digitalis (foxglove)
  40. Diospyros (persimmon)
  41. Ficus (fig)
  42. Forsythia (forsythia)
  43. Fraxinus (ash)
  44. Gaillardia (blanketflower)
  45. Gardenia (gardenia)
  46. Geum (prairie smoke, avens)
  47. Ginkgo biloba (maidenhair tree)
  48. Gypsophila (baby’s breath)
  49. Hamamelis (witch hazel)
  50. Hedera (english ivy)
  51. Helleborus (hellebore, Christmas rose)
  52. Hosta (hosta)
  53. Hydrangea (hydrangea, hortensia) (exception: Hydrangea quercifolia)
  54. Ilex (holly)
  55. Impatiens (impatiens)
  56. Iris (iris) (some species)
  57. Jacobaea maritima, formerly Senecio cineraria (dusty miller)
  58. Juglans cinerea (butternut)
  59. Juniperus (juniper)
  60. Kalmia (mountain laurel)
  61. Lantana (lantana)
  62. Lathyrus (sweet pea)
  63. Leucanthemum (daisy)
  64. Liatris (gayfeather)
  65. Lilium (lily)
  66. Liquidambar (sweet gum)
  67. Liriodendron (tulip tree)
  68. Lonicera (honeysuckle)
  69. Lychnis (campion, catchfly)
  70. Magnolia (magnolia)
  71. Monarda (beebalm)
  72. Morus rubra (red mulberry)
  73. Musa (banana)
  74. Myosotis (forget-me-mot)
  75. Nepeta (catmint)
  76. Nicotiana (nicotiana, flowering tobacco)
  77. Pachysandra (Japanese pachysandra, Japanese spurge)
  78. Papaver (poppy)
  79. Pear (Pyrus)
  80. Petunia (petunia)
  81. Philadelphus (mockorange)
  82. Physostegia (obedient plant)
  83. Picea (spruce)
  84. Pinus (pine)
  85. Populus alba (silver poplar)
  86. Portulaca grandiflora (portulaca)
  87. Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir)
  88. Pyracantha (firethorn)
  89. Quercus (oak) (exceptions: Q. prinus, Q. palustris)
  90. Ranunculus (buttercup)
  91. Rhododendron (rhododendron, azalea)
  92. Rhus (sumac)
  93. Robinia (locust)
  94. Rudbeckia (black-eyed susan)
  95. Ruta (rue)
  96. Scabiosa (pincushion flower)
  97. Sedum (sedum)
  98. Styphnolobium japonicum, formerly Sophora japonica (Japanese pagoda tree)
  99. Symphoricarpos (snowberry)
  100. Syringa (lilac)
  101. Tanacetum (tansy)
  102. Taxus (yew)
  103. Thuja occidentalis (aborvitae, white-cedar) (some cultivars)
  104. Tradescantia (spiderwort)
  105. Tropaeolum majus (nasturtium)
  106. Tsuga (hemlock)
  107. Verbena (vervain)
  108. Veronica (veronica)
  109. Viburnum opulus (European cranberry bush)
  110. Viola (pansy, violet)

23 comments on “Plants Japanese Beetles Tend to Avoid

  1. Andrea McDonald

    As a new homeowner, I was unaware of the devastating effect these little pests had. Moved form eastern WI (apparently these bugs don’t live near the lake, sigh) to western WI. Zone 5 for reference. Our house is next to an alternating corn/soybean field. Not sure if this is making the problem worse? Anyways, they have destroyed the “mini willow” I planted last summer, along with the holly hocks , knock out roses, and kind of my tea cup roses- I think because they produce so many flowers they are only able to destroy about 1/2 (eye roll). They have not touched the tiger eye sumac! Salvia, bee balm, hyacinth, astible, butterfly weed, spider wort, bell flowers, day lilies, Russian sage or jack frost plant. They also really hated my lemon grass plant, only an annual plant here but it was GORGEOUS and smelled AMAZING.

  2. nia4kitty

    I removed the following from my garden: William Cabot climber rose, minature shrub Rosa Angel Wings (my garden pal grew those from seeds, and they were 5×6 ft in my garden, used to produce continuous flowers until… ), Purple sandcherry, Rosa High Voltage, Persicaria polymorpha (was my favorite until…), Plum trees, Apricot tree, Sweet Cherry, the tart cherry had issues in addition to JB,

    My oso easy groundcover rose Hot Paprika has good tolerance of it. As do phlox, delphiniums, foxgloves and other poisonous plants, though they may become entrench to them

  3. Pingback: Plants Japanese Beetles Like – Laidback Gardener

  4. they love our weeping cherry – have to spray sevin once a week for 4 weeks to partially get them under control – is there a better way ? every spray a couple hundred drop from a 10′ x 10′ weeping cherry. They also devour my regular rose bush, leaves and flowers are gone 2 days after the JB’s hatch……they don’t touch my knock-outs (maybe because the weeping cherry is in the back yard which has 10 big knockouts)

  5. They totally destroyed my petunias last year! I am hoping that they don’t like periwinkle…

    • They won’t!

      • Great news! I have always loved periwinkle (Vinca) for its bright colors and drought tolerance. I am going to plant it in every spot where I have previously planted petunias.

    • Jessica A Little

      Yeah even though it says that they hate petunias that’s not true because we have petunias getting eaten like crazy right now

  6. They LOVE petunias and new guinea impatiens as well. Grrrr.

  7. yeah, you should probably take the birches off the list too. Here in eastern Nebraska they’ve been devouring my paper birch the past two years!

    • Thanks for the info. I’ve made the change!

    • nia4kitty

      I do use a systemic in the spring for galls on my variegated birch Shiloh Splash, and that may help with the JB. I have also sprayed since its not a large tree.

      I purchased a columnar birch that is resistant according to the label, Betula nigra Dura Heat. It seems accurate thus far.

  8. Pingback: The Fly That Controls Japanese Beetles – Laidback Gardener

  9. JB’s are attacking the 11 Burning Bushes in our yard! That was the reason we planted burning bushes because they were said to be unliked by JBs. Very frustrating!

    • Another one bites the dust! It’s as if this pest is learning to eat everything! Thanks for the warning!

    • Burning bush is an invasive plant and should not be planted so they did you a favour. Plant some native bushes they tend to leave them alone.

      • Remember, Kate R, that Lois might come from an area where burning bushes are not invasive. What is and is not invasive is very much dependent on local climate.

  10. Just found your blog and want to say that in my yard in central Virginia, Japanese Beetles devour the Corylus or American Hazel/Filbert. I have two shrubs and the JBs cover them in summer and skeletonize the leaves. They also devour roses, crape myrtles, late blooming Magnolias, oak leaf hydrangeas, cherry trees, and more.

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