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 is found in summer and early autumn on outdoor plants, but may be seen year-round on indoor fuchsias.

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 fall, 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

The fungicides tebuconazole (Bayer Fungus Fighter Concentrate), tebuconazole with trifloxystrobin (Bayer Fungus Fighter Plus), and triticonazole (Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra and Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra Gun) are approved for the control of rust diseases on ornamental plants, and can be used to control the disease on fuchsias. However, tebuconazole and triticonazole both belong to the triazole group of fungicides. It should be noted 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.

Download

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

Links

Chemicals: using a sprayer
Chemicals: using safely and effectively
Chemicals: storing and disposing safely

Biology

The fungus releases orange spores from the pustules and these are spread by the wind to initiate new infections on leaves during wet conditions. Part of the life-cycle of the fungus is spent on Abies species, and spores produced on Abies are able to infect fuchsias (and Epilobium species) in the vicinity. Spread of the disease onto fuchsias from infected Epilobium is also possible. However as mentioned above, the disease is probably present on 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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