Rust is a fungal infection that causes pale leaf spots called pustules to develop on the leaves. These are spore-producing structures that can be yellow, orange, black, brown or white, but are most commonly a rust-like colour, from which it gets its name.

Like humans and animals, plants are more prone to diseases when they have a poor diet, and rust disease is essentially a sign of malnutrition. It can be avoided by keeping plants growing vigorously and by the use of drip irrigation as opposed to overhead watering. Letting water sit on the plant’s leaves allows the fungal spores to germinate with greater ease.

Optimal Conditions

Following a wet summer


Coloured spots on the leaves, typically a rust-like colour


Regularly fertilise with seaweed extract that contains plenty of potassium, sulphur, and other trace elements (including copper) that boost the plants’ immune systems. However, don’t overfeed with nitrogen, as the young, soft plant growth is more likely to host the spores.


For mild cases of rust, remove damaged parts of the affected plant and burn these, or dispose of them in a sealed plastic bag. Don’t ever compost them, as the spores may not be killed.


You can make an organic fungicide using 100 parts water, 10 parts bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), 1 part oil and 1 part liquid detergent. The bicarbonate is the active ingredient that helps to kill the fungal spores, while the oil and detergent help to fix and spread the mix over the leaf foliage respectively.

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