Fuchsia rust

Fuchsia rust is a fungal disease that causes orange spots on the undersides of fuchsia leaves and reduces vigour.

Fuchsia rust. Image: John Scrase

Quick facts

Common name Fuchsia rust
Scientific name Pucciniastrum epilobii 
Plants affected Fuchsias, Epilobium spp. and Abies spp. (firs)
Main symptoms Orange spots on underside of leaves
Caused by Fungus
Timing All year round if grown indoors, summer onwards if grown outdoors

What is fuchsia rust?

Fuchsia rust is a disease caused by a fungus, Pucciniastrum epilobii, that spreads by airborne spores and reduces plant vigour. Rust may be seen all year on indoor fuchsias but in summer and early autumn outdoors.

The fungus infects willowherbs (Epilobium spp.) as well as fuchsias and alternates between these hosts and Abies spp. (firs).

Symptoms

You may see the following symptoms:

  • On leaves: Initially, pale, ill-defined yellow spots appear on the upper leaf surface, corresponding to orange, dusty pustules on the lower surface. Later, leaves shrivel and vigour is greatly reduced

Control

Non-chemical control

  • Fuchsia enthusiasts should avoid ornamental species of Epilobium and eliminate weedy species
  • Pick off affected leaves as soon as they are noticed and feed the plants to boost vigour

Chemical control

Fungicides containing myclobutanil (Bayer Garden Systhane Fungus Fighter* and other formulations), tebuconazole (Bayer Garden Multirose Concentrate 2) and triticonazole (Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra) can be used to control rust on fuchsias, but note that fuchsias are stated to be very sensitive to damage by this type of fungicide and some authorities say that they should not be sprayed.

We suggest spraying a few leaves first and waiting at least three weeks to see if any damage occurs. This wait may mean it is then too late to spray in that season, but will give an indication of whether spraying can be carried out safely in future years.

The products permitted under organic regimes have little effect on rusts.

*NB: The following products are being withdrawn:

Myclobutanil (Bayer Garden Systhane Fungus Fighter concentrate and Bayer Garden Fungus Fighter Disease Control). These products cannot be sold after the 30th November 2015 and remaining stocks must be used or disposed of before the 30th November 2016.

Download

Fungicides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat document outlining fungicides available to gardeners)

Biology

The fungus releases orange spores from the pustules and these are spread by the wind to initiate new infections on leaves. In late summer and early autumn these pustules produce dark, overwintering spores, but over-wintering spores are not usually found on fuchsias. These survive over the winter on infected plant material and germinate in the spring to release spores which can only infect Abies, where the fungus goes through a further cycle of development, releasing airborne spores which can reinfect fuchsias. However as mentioned above, the disease is probably present in fuchsias all year anyway.

The rust fungi are described as biotrophs: they grow within the living tissues of the plant and extract nutrients from the cells over an extended period. However, although they do not kill tissues rapidly, heavy attacks by rusts can cause tissues to collapse and die prematurely and this is the case for fuchsia leaves. This leads to a great loss of vigour and an unsightly plant.

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  • Martin Davis avatar

    By Martin Davis on 31/08/2014

    by Martin on 31/8/14 I've got about 20 fuchsias in pots outdoors but only two have developed a serious attack of rust. I've stripped all the infected leaves off them and put them away from the others. They look a bit sad but with a feed they should survive until the first frost when I shall reduce them by half prior to overwintering them in a cold greenhouse. If the plants are showing signs of infection at this point I'm afraid it's the bin for them. I don't like using chemicals at all.


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  • Ripcurl avatar

    By Ripcurl on 30/08/2014

    Rust has spread to all of my fuchsias, and I have a lot of them . Tried to cut leaves etc and don't want to use chemicals. Shall I cut back after flowering?


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