Fig trees are an excellent addition to your property, and their delicious fruit and gorgeous coloring make them a popular choice for southern gardeners. However, like many other plants native to dry and warm climates, fig trees are prone to fungal infections when grown in regions with greater humidity. Discover how to identify and treat rust on your fig tree before it causes extensive damage. Remember that prevention is always better than fighting when it comes to fungal problems.

What Is Fig Rust?

Fig rust is a common fungal disease that affects fig tree health. The fungus Cerotelium fici is the culprit that causes this disease, and it usually attacks the youngest leaves first. Fortunately, the infection only affects the leaves and causes little to no damage to the fruit itself. With that in mind, it may cause a lower fruit yield when left untreated.

How To Identify It

Healthy fig leaves are a vibrant green color, but you may start noticing yellow spots. Eventually, these spots get bigger, and they turn to a brownish color. You may also notice raised brown spots or lesions on the underside of the leaves. Over time, the leaves will be completely yellow, and then they’ll turn brown before falling off of the tree.

This disease usually occurs in the late summer, and severe cases can cause your tree to lose leaves extremely rapidly. Although fig rust and the loss of leaves don’t kill the tree, they can make it more susceptible to other diseases, and you may see a reduced fruit yield if it occurs may growing seasons in a row.

Preventing Fig Rust

Although there’s no surefire way to prevent fig rust, you must remember that it’s easier to take preventative measures than fight a full-blown fungal infection. Because fig trees are more suitable for growing in zones 8 through 11, you’ll have to provide extra care if you want to grow them successfully in a different climate.

Proper Pruning

Although removing healthy leaves and limbs from a tree may seem unnecessary, proper pruning is one of the best ways to keep your fig tree healthy and strong. For instance, pruning may improve air circulation, making it possible for the excess water to evaporate into the air in a timely manner. Unfortunately, rust fungus thrives on excess moisture; therefore, the condition may worsen if the sun and air cannot reach the center of the tree’s foliage.

Clean Up Leaf Litter

Even if you keep up with pruning, your fig tree may still suffer from fig rust unless you make an effort to clean up the leaf litter. Rake your fallen leaves, remove drooping branches, and dispose of them by burning them to keep the base of your fig tree clear of any obstructions.


Unfortunately, there aren’t many fungicides suitable for use on fig trees. However, fig rust seems to respond best to fungicides that contain lime and copper sulfate. It’s best to spray the tree and surrounding soil every two or three weeks during its dormant season. Although it’s usually too late for treatment after noticing rust, starting a fungicide regimen during dormancy can help prevent recurrence the following season.

Keep It Dry

Because fig trees are more suitable for warm and dry climates, fig rust is more likely to occur during extra humid spells and seasons of prolonged rainfall. Although you can’t control the weather, you can do what you can to avoid unnecessary moisture on your tree’s leaves. For example, don’t plant a fig tree near an irrigation system or purposely run a lawn sprinkler near the tree. In addition, make sure the plot gets full sunlight throughout the day before planting the tree.

In fact, you should water only the ground at the tree’s base. Furthermore, try to water your fig tree in the morning, so any water that splashes on the leaves and trunk has a chance to dry during the day. Planting the tree too close to other plants and trees can impede the air circulation and cause the leaves to retain moisture and develop rust as a result.

Examine the Leaves

Since it’s often too late for treatment when gardeners notice fig rust, you can prevent the fungus from getting worse by catching it early. Typically, the disease develops on the underside of the leaves first; therefore, you may be able to catch it before it’s too late by examining your fig tree’s leaves at least once each week.

Combatting Existing Fig Rust

While preventative measures may be better for keeping your tree clear of fig rust, it’s sometimes inevitable. With that in mind, you must know the best way to combat the fungus after it starts infecting your fig tree. Fortunately, this disease doesn’t cause immediate long-term damage to your tree, so you shouldn’t lose hope when you notice the yellow or brown spots on your fig tree’s leaves.

Remove and Dispose of Infected Leaves

When you first notice the spots on the leaves, it may be too late to treat them with fungicides or other methods. However, you should immediately remove any infected leaves and branches and burn them. If you let them fall off the tree and rot at its base, you may cause quicker infection or more extensive problems for the tree.

Give It Time

Fortunately, fig rust is very unlikely to kill the tree or cause damage to the fruit. However, it can weaken the tree and make it more susceptible to other pests and diseases. Luckily, a thorough fall clean-up and a regimen of fungicide spray during the dormant season almost guarantee your fig tree will be back in good health for the following growing season. In other words, give it time and take care of it.

Whether it’s your first growing season or you’re looking for potted fig trees for sale, you can benefit from knowing how to identify and treat rust on your fig tree. It’s no secret that figs are delicious and nutritious, but it takes more than sunlight and water to keep the tree alive and thriving. If you live in a humid region, you must take extra good care of your fig tree to ensure rust doesn’t become an issue.

How To Identify and Treat Rust on Your Fig Tree

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