Fuchsia rust is a fungal disease that produces orange pustules on the undersides of fuchsia leaves, causes leaf shedding and reduces plant vigour.
Scientific name Pucciniastrum epilobii
Plants affected Fuchsias, Epilobium spp. and Abies spp. (firs)
Main symptoms Orange pustules 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).
You may see the following symptoms:
- On leaves: Initially, pale, ill-defined yellow spots or blotches appear on the upper leaf surface, corresponding to orange, dusty pustules on the lower surface. The affected areas of the upper surface may turn a purple colour on some cultivars. Later, leaves shrivel and fall, and vigour is greatly reduced
The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.
- 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
The fungicides tebuconazole (Provanto Fungus Fighter Concentrate), tebuconazole with trifloxystrobin (Provanto Fungus Fighter Plus, Toprose Fungus Control & Protect), and triticonazole (Fungus Clear Ultra) 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.
Fungicides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat document outlining fungicides available to gardeners)
The fungus releases spores from the orange 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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