Japanese Beetles: Best and Worst Plants

Choose the right plants and have fewer pests!

June 20, 2019
Japanese Beetles
Lamba/Wikimedia Commons

Although Japanese beetles are known to feed on more than 300 types of plants, some are more appealing to them than others! Here’s a list of the best and worst plants to grow when dealing with Japanese beetles.

What do Japanese Beetles Like to Eat?

As larvae, Japanese beetles live underground, feeding on the roots of grasses and other garden plants. This often leads to brown spots of dead or dying grass in lawns—a tell-tale sign of a Japanese beetle larvae infestation.

The adults like to feed on a number of different fruit and shade trees, roses, shrubs, asparagus, corn, soybeans, and a variety of other vegetables and ornamentals. The beetles will also readily munch on geraniums, but geraniums contain a substance that temporarily paralyzes Japanese beetles, making them susceptible to predators. Geraniums are therefore often used as trap plants.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has identified the following best and worst landscape plants to have in your yard when hungry Japanese beetles come calling. Use these suggestions as guidelines if you’re adding new plants.

Plants Most Often Damaged by Japanese Beetles

These plants are favored by adult Japanese beetles and are more susceptible to destruction. Avoid planting them in areas that get regular infestations. 

  • American linden
  • Apple
  • Apricot, cherry, peach, and plum
  • Beans
  • Birch
  • Crab apple
  • Crape myrtle
  • Grape vines
  • Hibiscus
  • Japanese maple
  • Norway maple
  • Pin oak
  • Raspberry
  • Roses

Plants Least Often Damaged by Japanese Beetles

These plants are least favored by adult Japanese beetles and are less susceptible to destruction. (However, there is no guarantee that these plants won’t be attacked if there are limited food sources in the area!)

  • Ash
  • Boxwood
  • Burning bush
  • Clematis
  • Dogwood
  • Fir
  • Forsythia
  • Hemlock
  • Holly
  • Lilac
  • Magnolia
  • Northern red oak
  • Pine
  • Redbud
  • Red maple
  • Spruce
  • Yew

Do you get Japanese Beetles? Here’s help! See our pest page on Japanese Beetles Control.

Do you grow roses? See our free Roses Growing Guide for advice on caring for rose shrubs!


Reader Comments

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Japanese Beetles

At my place in Nebraska the Japanese beetles seem to go crazy for false Virginia creeper.

Do not squash Japanese Beetles!

The nursery told me NOT to squash Japanese Beetles as that releases their pheromones which attracts more beetles to your yard. Traps, I was told they would be happy to take my money but not to put any in my yard as they attract more beetles to your yard. If hand picking Japanese Beetles drop them in a container of water & dish soap.


Ditto on someone who mentioned basil below. Unfortunately for us it seems to be one of their favorites. That and cilantro.

Japanese Beetles

Milky Spore and Praying Mantis!!! One application of Milky Spore lasts 10 to 20 years. Praying Mantis are carnivorous and are fun to watch.

japanese beetle control

Tulle netting is very effective at protecting plants. I sew a 20-foot long box out of tulle and lay it over an arbor made from pvc pipes. This keeps the beetles from feasting on my grape vines. I have also made another box to protect my raspberries. This box is supported by T-posts with old tennis balls over the tops. The posts are spaced about 4-5 feet apart. The only weakness I have found with tulle is that after 2 or 3 years, it succumbs to the effects of the sun and rain and I have to replace it.

Cover plants to protect from Japanese Beetles

Buy a thin net fabric called tulle at any fabric store - it's very cheap. It is a netting with very small holes. Cover your plants with it - it lets in light, water but not the beetles. I use it on all my potted flowers that they are attracted to. Have to keep it on for about 6 weeks until they are gone but it works & doesn't poison bees, butterflies etc.

Neem oil for Japanese Beetles

Use Neem oil for your Japanese beetle infestation. Mix a spray bottle with a tablespoon of neem oil, dish soap (teaspoon) and water. Spray all your leaves front and back every day in the morning or at dusk. When they eat these, it will kill their reproductive system and can't lay eggs in your yard. But you will also have to treat your lawn with milky spore and nematodes to kill the larva. There is no instant kill, they will always come back, but these things will help not kill your grass and won't be harmful to the environment, bees or other animals that eat the bugs.

Japanese Beetles

I have a lot of fruit trees and bushes. Beetles have killed a few of my young cherry trees by defoliation them. When the bugs are on the tree, I spray with Bonide fruit tree and plant guard.
Around early September when the beetles have laid their young eggs in the ground. I spray the ground with a product containing Imidacloprid.

Diatomaceous Earth

Is the use of diatomaceous earth for insect control harmful to honeybees and other pollinators?


The Editors's picture

Yes, diatomaceous earth (DE) can be harmful to some bees and other pollinators. This is why it’s generally recommended not to use DE when plants are in flower. Or, simply use it on foliage that’s not near the plant’s flowers, as pollinators will be less likely to come into contact with it.

feed them to the fishes

We have several fruit trees in our yard that they attack but we don't want to spray if we can avoid it. We got one of the bags with the attractant and rigged it up in our pond nearby. They are attracted to an area away from our trees, we don't have the hassle of dumping the bag, plus the fish enjoy eating them- and I enjoy knowing they are gone.

Japanese Beetles

If you don't want too many japanese beetles then just plant geraniums because apparently thy can render paralysis.

I've found these horrid bugs

I've found these horrid bugs on my hibiscus, marigolds, even basil!! I hope someday soon they make a "magic" spray for these things.

Japanese Beetles July 24,2018

They have always ate my Burning Bush, they are mating on the neighbor’s burning bush. I will hand pick as many as I can. I tried to drown some of them in the grass with water & Dawn.


They love my zinnias. They are piled-up on each other on the blooms. Must be having a party! Have sprayed and also smash between my fingers. Never had them this bad before. They have ruined my roses.

Japanese Beetle Control

We used to put half an inch of Dove dish soap or Sunlight dish soap and a half an inch of vinegar in measuring cup and pour it into a quart of warm water and test spray some sample plants and leave them for a few days to test if the plant can tolerate it. Then spray the whole plant and the ground around it. Then wait a minute and spray it all again . Or come back in an hour or the next day and spray again . This works on fruit trees too but always test spray first. You can use this spray for grass too. Test spray a small patch first to make sure your brand of grass will tolerate it.

Japanese beetle

They love love Canas plants too. They will leave them with nothing but a stem.


Got my introduction to Japanese Beetles this month. Canas in a pot are covered in them. Hand pick everyday but am losing the battle. They especially .love to burrow into the new buds. When I disturb them they fly off to my Boston Ivy vine. Think I brought them home in purchased potting soil. In 25 years of living here this is a first for the little beggars.

Japanese Beetles love eggplant

Your information said these beetles "generally" don't like eggplant, but I can tell you that they absolutely devoured my eggplant.

Japanese beetles

The Editors's picture

Thank you for your feedback! We have revised the text. Indeed, these beetles are not fussy eaters!

They were really damaging my

They were really damaging my hazel trees earlier in the year, I wonder if Japanese gardeners have problems with these beetles, lol.

japanese beetles

The water in the can/container doesn't have to be boiling hot, in fact, it can be cold. I add a little detergent to the water and simply knock the darned beetles into the water. As for those beetle bags, there's conflicting information/advice on using them. They can actually draw MORE beetles into your yard. If you have to use them place the bag in the back of your property, hopefully not near your neighbor's prized roses!

Japanese Beetles

There is a Home Defence that contains product to kill Japanese Beetle works well.
Also if you take a container of boiling water out and knock them into it it's instant gone especially if they are attacking your roses.

Home defense

You indicate a home defence that will work. Can you be more specific? Brand? Spray?
Thank you

japanese beetles

Thanks for advice re: japanese beetles.They are eating my balsam fir trees.Needles are going brown.

Japanese Beetles

What is the best product/concentrate to spray large areas around fruit trees to kill Japanese Beetles?

Japanese Beetles.

I have a 50 ft cherry and apple tree. They stripped them before I saw they were on them. I also had them on the tomatoes and okra.. I hung traps with garbage bags on them. I put garbage bags 4 times with about a foot of dead bugs,,,, in the trash., Every bug in the bag was a dead bug. Then we sprinkled lime on the ground to kill off the eggs,, so they will not hatch out next year.

Japanese Beetles in Morris, IL

Milky spore worked for us. We put it on our lawn in the spring and fall to kill the grubs. I rarely see them now.

Beetles in NC

Japanese beetles seem to love my concord grape vines and will turn the leaves into lace overnight. they also seem to like Crepe Myrtles which they will also denude if given the choice. I have used Sevin spray and "beetle bags" to lessen the damage but the battle seems to be constant each year. Any long term solutions out there?