Discovered in New Jersey in the early 1900s, Japanese beetles have made their way across the U.S., feeding upon and damaging the leaves and flowers of over 250 plant species. Roses are their favorite food, but flowering crabs and cherries, viburnums and grapes are also on their list. If your garden is plagued by these aliens, consider plants that do not attract Japanese beetles.
Flowers and Annuals
Flowers and annuals may seem like tasty beetle food, but Japanese beetles shun a surprisingly long list of ornamentals. For shade, consider bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis). This showy, trailing plant is usually grown in hanging baskets. Begonias, too, can be used in shady baskets, but it is more often used in beds and planters. For sunny baskets, look at the Chinese lantern plant (Physalis alkekengi). It has bright orange flowers and can be grown from seed.
In the border, ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum) or floss flower provides bright blue flowers throughout the growing season. Speedwell (Veronica), daisies (Asteraceae) and buttercups (Ranunculaceae) can round out your beetle-proof border.
If you love the look of roses but your bushes are being destroyed, consider hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla). Available in a wide variety of colors, sizes and leaf textures, hydrangeas also make excellent cut or dried flowers. Suitable for full sun or shade, hydrangeas flower abundantly throughout the season. Lilacs (Syringa) will provide richly scented flowers in spring. Flowers range from pure whites and yellows to pale pinks or deep purples.
For evergreen foundation plantings, consider boxwood (Buxus), yews (Taxus) or juniper (of Juniperus communis). Boxwoods and junipers offer the added advantage deer resistance and yews offer a berry that is attractive to birds.
Early spring flowering forsythia is easy to grow and provides a burst of color before almost any other shrub. Many species of forsythia are available; all are unbothered by Japanese beetles.
Certain varieties of maple and oak are resistant to beetle damage. Red (Acer rubrum) and silver maples (Acer saccharinum) and red (Quercus rubra) and white oak (Quercus alba) are the best choices if you have a beetle problem.
Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) is a small native tree. With its white or pink saucer-shaped flowers and glossy leaves, it is often used as specimen plant. It is hardy to zone 4 and prefers full sun and rich soil.
Dogwood, a small, native ornamental tree, develops flowers in spring and red berries in fall. The berries persist into winter and provide welcome food for songbirds.