Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Plant pests

Plants Japanese Beetles Tend to Avoid

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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.

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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)

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

21 comments on “Plants Japanese Beetles Tend to Avoid

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

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

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

  8. 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)

  9. Pingback: Plants Japanese Beetles Like – Laidback Gardener

  10. 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

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