Leaf Damage

When leaf damage occurs to landscape and garden plants, accurate identification of the guilty pest helps stop the damage before it gets worse. Learning to recognize different types of leaf damage can help you identify the sources and treat your plants effectively.

Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles are voracious feeders that feast on hundreds of different plant types. These invasive pests prefer sunny, well-irrigated lawns and landscapes. Signs of Japanese beetle leaf damage include::
  • "Skeletonized" leaves, with only the leaf veins left
  • Damage focused on green tissue between leaf veins
  • Extensive damage in a very short time
  • Groups of beetles seen feeding during daylight hours


Grasshoppers damage plants extensively when their populations soar. They prefer grasses and tender plants, but everything is fair game when grasshopper migrations occur. Signs of grasshopper leaf damage include:
  • Large areas of plant leaves missing
  • Large "holes" that start at the leaf edge and work inward
  • Rough hole edges marked with bite and chew marks
  • Damaged plants near tall grassy borders or weeds

Photo credit: C Watts (CC BY 2.0)

Snails and Slugs

Snails and slugs come out in throngs when moderate temperatures and wet weather combine in spring and fall. In a single night, these pests can turn beautiful foliage plants into masses of tattered greenery. Signs of snail and slug damage include:
  • Large, irregular holes throughout the leaf surface
  • Entire holes appear within the leaf, not just along the edge
  • Extensive damage in a single night
  • Slimy mucus trails on plants or nearby soil


When leaves suffer damage, the holes don't repair themselves. Leaf damage remains until the plant drops its leaves or dies. If pests damage a small number of leaves, simply prune the damaged leaves away. If the entire plant sustains heavy damage, large-scale leaf removal may shock the plant further. For annuals, replace the plant. For large plants, it's best to leave the damage as is and let nature take its course.