Japanese Beetle Resistant Roses

Photo by Chris F from Pexels


Rita Jokerst, Horticulturist, Gardens on Spring Creek

Japanese beetles are the scorn of any rose gardener, and we at the Gardens on Spring Creek are disappointed to report these pests are officially here in the Northern Colorado area. These concerning beetles do not just target rose gardens – they attack a wide variety of landscape, edible, and ornamental plants as they damage plants in two different ways. 

The larvae (or grubs) feed on the roots of turfgrass, thereby producing drought-stress symptoms in large swathes of off-color, unhealthy-looking lawn. The grubs’ presence in turn attracts further damage by other critters. Skunks, raccoons, and many birds will dig into lawns infested with Japanese beetle larvae to feed upon them. Secondly, the highly mobile adults damage plants above ground, chewing on the leaves and flowers of many, many plants. So, what preemptive actions can a gardener take against these pests? Follow the data and plant wisely!

In 2016 and 2017, Colorado State University Professor Whitney Cranshaw evaluated Japanese beetle damage on roses at the War Memorial Garden in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of a growing season, seven observations were made and included beetle damage, ranked on a scale of 0-3 (no damage to heavy damage) and flower visitation by bees, ranked 0-3 (no visitation to high visitation). Studying both the beetle damage and how preferred a plant is by bees is important because many of the go-to insecticides that will successfully control the beetles can also harm globally declining bee populations. 

Below are some takeaways from Dr. Cranshaw’s research. “Not recommended” roses had both high levels of beetle damage and high bee visitation, making Japanese beetle control difficult and insecticide application unwise. “Maybe” roses had no bee visitation and varying levels of beetle damage, meaning they could be effectively treated with insecticidal controls without risking negative impacts to our local bees. “Recommended roses” had no beetle damage, therefore not in need of any interventive action as Japanese beetles move into our region. Asterisked roses can be found on the grounds at the Gardens on Spring Creek.


FLORIBUNDA ‘Easy Does It’ ‘Cathedral’ ‘Angel Face’*
‘Eureka’ ‘Class Act’
‘First Edition’ ‘French Lace’
‘Moon Dance’ ‘Rainbow Sorbet’
‘Honey Perfume’
‘Hot Coco’
GRANDIFLORA ‘Glowing Peace’ ‘Beauty’ ‘Shining Hour’
‘Prima Donna’
HYBRID TEA ‘Elle’ ‘Tuscan Sun’ ‘Colossus’
‘Pascali’ ‘Heritage’ ‘Kordes’ Perfecta’
‘Touch of Class’ ‘Voodoo’ ‘Gemini’
‘John S. Armstrong’ ‘Electron’
CLIMBER ‘Climbing New Dawn’ ‘Joseph’s Coat’*
‘Fourth of July’
MINATURE ‘Midas Touch’ ‘Carrot Top’
‘Baby Boomer’ ‘Child’s Play’
‘Ranada’ ‘Cupcake’
‘Gala’ ‘Merlot’
‘Old Glory’
‘Jean Kenneally’*
‘Sun Sprinkles’


Of course, there are so many more rose varieties that need to be explored for their susceptibility to beetle damage, and the sample Dr. Cranshaw used in this study was limited by what roses were established in the memorial garden. For gardeners with their hearts set on putting in a new rose garden, this research can help inform smart rose choices. For those who already have some of the not recommended varieties in their yards, maybe it is time to consider replacing those rose bushes with more Japanese beetle-resistant varieties. Though, rather than planting more roses in arid Colorado, it may be time to shift our gardens to other, more regionally appropriate plants – ones that can provide just as much beauty but with a better impact on our flora and fauna community. 

For more information on the research presented here: https://webdoc.agsci.colostate.edu/bspm/InsectInformation/Talks2019/SymROSEium.pdf 


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