Dealing with fig leaf rust

I’m looking for ideas on how to deal with fig leaf rust. I ordered 4 fig plants and 3 of them were sent with rust. The picture below shows what my LSU purple fig looked like about a week ago. The rust is getting worse. I’ve read that it will not heal itself and that the leaves will eventually fall off.

I don’t now how easy this stuff spreads and I have 2 other figs that are healthy right now. I don’t want them to get the rust. Can I pull the rusty leaves off the 3 young fig trees and completely defoliate them? Burn the leaves, then spray the small trees with copper, and hope they grow new “rust free” leaves? I know the leaves are eventually going to fall off. Is there anything wrong with speading up this process? I feel like the longer they are on the tree the higher the chances are that the rust will spread to my healthy trees. In my location it can get humid in summer but not to the extent that southern states like florida, bama, or Louisanna get. I don’t envision rust being too big a problem here. It was definately imported from Florida on the plants.

What are your thoughts?

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Sorry to see this. I’ve dealt with the same problem from nurseries down south (no disrespect meant for southern nurseries, I’ve dealt with a number of very good ones). Even after stripping leaves I’ve had trees with rust show symptoms later. No experience with copper here.

I’ve treated trees with neem in the dormant season (sometimes twice, both fall and early spring) as well as removed all leaves from the pots and let our cold winters take care of them and that seems to prevent reoccurence. You may want to quarantine the infected trees to at least slow the spread. I did that last year with a couple trees and it seemed to be at least partially successful.

Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

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I’d say pulling the leaves off won’t help. In southern areas it’s a fact of life and they still grow good figs. If it’s going to be an issue in your area it will show up no matter what you do. If it’s not you won’t see it again or often no matter what.

Rust in general is very weather dependent. The spores are always in the air and if conditions are right, wham. If conditions are not conducive, no issue. That’s how it works in things like wheat and other field crops. I only get corn leaf rust here in the late summer rainy season never in our dry season before August.

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Thanks guys. I am somewhat quarentining them.

Fruitnut do you think that if I leave the infected leaves on that new leaves won’t automatically get it due to close proximity? I’m not that far from Scott and Matt and I’m pretty sure I’ve read Scott mention he hasn’t had rust problems with figs (correct me if I’m wrong). I’m just brainstorming and the practical side of me makes me think that since I don’t expect rust issues here I can eradicate the imported rust by pulling leaves and destroying them. If it’s bad for the plants I certainly won’t do it.

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I don’t think it will hurt to pull those leaves off. They are in bad shape. The plant should regrow new leaves.

The nursery had no business sending you diseased plants, and I would ask for a refund. Rust is a common fig disease in the South and there is really no cure for it. The only way to stop the rust is to remove the infected leaves and destroy them. Since your plant is so young and all of the leaves are infected, you could possibly lose the plant, before it has a chance to put out new leaves.

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I wasn’t happy about getting infected plants either and the nursery refunded me for one of the plants. But since then 2 others developed rust. I’m using it as a learning experience.

If I decide to remove those leaves can rust remain on the truck of the plants after leaf disposal? I’m thinking about doing sort of a case study here. Maybe remove all diseased leaves off the 3 figs. Leave one untreated and treat the other 2 trunks with either sulfur, copper, neem, or some other type of fungicide. And compare the results. Or maybe quarantine one with the rusty leaves on it and see how it progresses by itself. I guess they will all lose their leaves by October here anyway.

Speedster, I have to say that you were my guinea pig. I had been looking at that same nursery and was tempted to order a few things. (Hey, only one flat low-cost shipping charge) I even had their page open when you asked if anyone had tried them. Since you post such nice descriptions of the orders you receive, I decided to wait until your order came in before I placed any. As far as I was concerned, once your posted your original pictures, that outfit failed from the get-go. Those TC plants should have been started in a sterile environment and grown out indoors. Since all the plants they sell are TC (tissue cultured), I’d expect the place to be kept clean, with low chance of infections. It apparently isn’t the case.

I’m sorry that these figs are being such a problem. But you did help me avoid a problem. They might have been relatively inexpensive, but I don’t think you got your money worth.

I’ve had figs for a pretty long time now and I’ve never had rust on them. That is probably just plain luck. So, I’ll knock on wood about that. It looked like it hit many gladiolus last year, and this year one grapevine got it pretty good. That one vine has never thrived, though. I may just try to hack it out of the ground this fall. Then it can either come back to spite me, or I can try a different one there next year.

There is no spray or fungicide that will control or prevent rust. The only thing that can control rust are cultural practices, which includes removing and destroying the infected leaves so they don’t spread the disease to uninfected leaves, heavily mulching the tree, and pruning the canopy to increase air flow and drying of the leaves. You cannot leave infected leaves on the tree and wait for them to fall off by themselves.


There was a post on the old GW forum that said spraying hydrogen peroxide on the leaves will clear up fig rust. After about a month it would reappear, and need to be sprayed again. I would think it would also help control the spread. I haven’t tried it myself, but maybe someone else here has.

So your opinion is to remove those leaves and hope new ones grow? No need to apply anything to the remaining tree stalk? I’m 100% certain the fig rust was shipped from florida. The fig tree I got from Raintree has zero rust and is growing fine.

Dave, you can try a coper fungicide, or use a Bordeaux spray (copper and lime). Remove the affected leaves, put in a plastic bag tied shut and dispose in the trash. Spray the stalk and the soil. It may take a few applications, but this should remove the rust fungal spores. If you’re planting your fig outside, in your zone, the freezing temps will kill off any remaining spores, so next season your tree should be rust-free. This is an issue you see if the south (Florida and Gulf states) due to their high humidity. I have never seen Rust on my figs here in S. California.

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Thanks. I removed the leaves and sprayed with copper fungicide. We’ll see what happens. I’m going to keep the pots outside in the shade. Hopefully some new leaves pop out rust free.

Woops too late to this thread.
I would of kept the top leaf and cut the other more damaged leaves.
I think of leaves as solar panels and the branches/roots as stored energy (battery)
That top leaf (after spaying) could power the recovery of the plant until you get a new leaf.
Then cut the partly damaged old leaf off.
This is an absolutely pitiful fig cutting.
You have very little stored energy in the roots and trunk
I hope it survives.

I am too scared to say this out loud but it is true for us also never had fig rust.
This shows the importance of buying good quality plants from reputable nurserymen.

I need to correct myself from my previous post, and say that I was wrong about the grape leaves having rust. The damaged/dead areas have a rusty brown color, but it is evidently not rust. The undersides have no residue. At this point, I don’t know what it is. I disposed of the affected leaves, anyway. Also, it was not one vine, but the neighboring one, as well.

The answer to both of your questions is yes and yes. I would not put the pot in the shade, the plant needs the sunlight in order to grow new leaves.

Even in very hot dry temps? Today it’s 90 degrees.

Yes, even in hot weather.

This morning I noticed a new leaf is opening on my Strawberry Verte. Snipping those leaves must have stimulated new growth already. Will be interesting to see if any rust develops on the new growth.

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Since these are potted would it help to add a little Epsoma Tree tone to the soil and water in. I think its 6-3-2 with micronutrients? I know too much nitrogen can prevent fruit set but with plants this small I’m not worried about fruit this year. I’d like them to leaf out and get thicker and stronger.

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