Fig Tree Diseases » Tips on Identification — Control

How to Manage Fig Tree Diseases


Figs have been a staple fruit crop in many countries for thousands of years. They are susceptible to some diseases, but how you grow and manage them can make the difference between a good crop or even the loss of the whole tree. Over-watering in particular increases the risk of disease.

About Figs

Figs are native to the Mediterranean, although they will also grow in other climates. Hardiness varies, with different fig varieties adapted to USDA Zones 5 through 11. They tolerate many different soil conditions, although rich soils can be a problem due to lush growth. Drought tolerant, they may still need irrigation in dry summer areas.

Disease Resistance

Planting disease resistant fruits is one of the main ways gardeners combat and help prevent problems. Unfortunately, however, few fig varieties are really disease resistant. They include:

  • Texas Everbearing – resistant to fruit souring
  • Champagne – resistant to fig leaf rust and leaf spot
  • Alma – resistant to fruit rots
  • LSU Purple – reported to be nematode resistant.

Fungal Diseases

Fungi are the biggest disease problem most gardeners and orchardists face. Once an infection takes hold, it can be nearly impossible to eradicate. Fig rust causes yellow-brown leaves that drop in late summer or early fall. Leaf blight causes yellowed leaves that look water-soaked. Pink blight causes a white to pink velvety coating on branches.

Fruit Mosaic

Caused by several different viruses thought to be spread by a mite called Aceria fici, mosaic starts with yellowed leaves. Eventually, the spots develop rust-colored bands. The virus causes fruits to look spotted. In some cases, the fruits are stunted or drop prematurely. Once a plant is infected, the virus can also be spread if cuttings from the plant are used to propagate new trees.

Fruit Souring

Fruit souring results from a yeast infection. Thought to be spread by vinegar flies or dried fruit beetles, it is more likely to occur in fig varieties with open ostioles. The ostiole is the tiny opening at the bottom of the fig through which pollinating wasps enter the fruit. Infected figs smell fermented and may ooze or bubble.

Root Nematodes

These nearly invisible roundworms can mimic a number of other diseases and the condition can be hard to diagnose. The most common symptom is general decline – trees don’t grow or produce as well. If you dig down to the roots, you’ll find swollen galls that eventually block the root system and kill the tree.

Prevention Strategies

Good garden sanitation is vitally important, as most of these diseases can’t really be treated once they occur. Neem oil may help in treating a rust infestation if started early. Cut off infected tissues and burn immediately. Don’t overwater – in greatly increases the risk of fungal disease. Plant marigolds around the tree to help with nematodes.

How to Treat Rust on Fruit Trees

21 September, 2017

Only certain varieties of fruit trees are susceptible to rust, namely apple and pear trees. This disease comes from a fungus named Gymnosporangium. It can cause unattractive spots on the fruit trees that lead to leaf and fruit drop. Treating rust on fruit trees requires a combination of methods. If you catch the disease early, and eliminate it, your tree should survive the disease.

Confirm the existence of rust on your fruit trees so you can treat it properly. Examine the leaves, looking for yellow or orange spots on the top side of the leaf. The underside of the leaf will show wart-like growths with spores growing out of them. Sometimes the fruit of the tree will show similar symptoms.

Prune off infected leaves and branches in the winter with pruning shears. Clear out the diseased material and throw it away. This will get rid of the spores that spread the disease. Clean your pruning shears with rubbing alcohol to disinfect them afterward.

Look for any junipers or cedars in your yard with bright orange, gelatinous growths in spring. Rust requires an alternate host to infect the fruit trees. Pick off these growths before they have a chance to germinate and spread.

Spray the fruit tree with a fungicide containing ferbam or zineb when it blooms. Make sure the fungicide lists your fruit tree before using it. Spray again when most of the flower petals have fallen off the tree and again 10 days later.

Repeat this cycle until the fruit tree shows no sign of disease.

Fruit Trees That Work Well Together

All types of fruit trees grow well together. Spacing for good canopy development, easy picking, good air circulation and size compatibility are important considerations in choosing fruit trees for the backyard orchard. High-density planting schemes use a 10 to 15 foot area for three to four fruit trees. Compatible planting of backyard fruit tree varieties can provide fruit all summer long. Each type of fruit tree has individual varieties that come to harvest in early summer, mid-summer or late summer and fall. Peach trees that grow well together for a long harvest include «Babcock Berkeley,» «Baby Crawford,» and «Peregrine England» varieties. » All cultivars are hardy to USDA zones 8 to 10. Trees in a neighboring yard may do the job. Bee activity is essential to successful pollination. Many home gardeners plant bee-friendly flowers such as lupine, goldenrod and asters to attract the bees needed for pollination.

Fruit tree problems and diseases

Fruit trees can be afflicted by a wide range of diseases and problems. Fortunately most of these can be resolved quite easily, especially if they are caught before they become serious. The following sections explain the kinds of problems you might come across when you are growing fruit trees, how to deal with them, and which varieties are resistant.

See also:  How to deal with scale insects

Aphids Aphids are sap-sucking insects which can quickly do tremendous damage to fruit trees. Bacterial canker Bacterial canker is serious disease of stone-fruit such as plum and cherry trees. Canker Canker is a serious fungal infection of apple and pear trees. Caterpillar damage Caterpillars can quickly eat large areas of leaves. Codling moth Codling moth larvae burrow inside developing apples, rendering the fruit unusable. Eriophyid mite Eriophyid mites are a late season pest of plum trees and other fruit trees. Fireblight Fireblight is a usually fatal bacterial disease of apples and pears. Frost damage Frosts in spring can affect leaves and blossom of fruit trees, leading to reduced crops. Magnesium deficiency A common problem with apple and pear trees. Leaves develop reddish-brown patches. Peach leaf curl Peach leaf curl is a significant disease affecting peach, nectarine and almond trees. Pear leaf blister mite Pear blister mite is a microscopic insect that feeds within pear leaves. Pear rust Pear rust is a fungal disease affecting pear trees. Scab Scab is one of the most common fungal infections of apples and pears. Walnut blister mite An insect pest which causes unsightly but harmless damage to the leaves of young walnut trees.

How to get help with your fruit tree problems

We can often diagnose diseases and problems that might be affecting your new fruit trees.

The best way to get help is to send us photos by email — send them to [email protected]

Please take several photos of the problem area, and always include a good photo of the whole of the tree including the ground around it. This is very important because we can tell a lot about the health of your tree from its general appearance.

Fruit Tree Curly Leaf Treatment

Peach leaf curl fungus causes symptoms in the first leaf flush.

Related Articles

Fruit trees are a challenge because they attract a variety of troublesome diseases and pests and require constant care and pruning. Leaf curl can be a chronic problem on fruit trees, but is not typically fatal. Under normal circumstances, only two major problems cause leaf curl in fruit trees: peach leaf curl fungus and aphids. Both are easily treatable if you are persistent.

Peach Leaf Curl Fungus

Peach leaf curl fungus (Taphrina deformans) causes severe deformation and curling of leaves in peach and nectarine trees (Prunus persica), which grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8. The first flush of leaves is most severely affected. These leaves develop red patches before thickening, puckering and finally curling dramatically. Thickened leaf surfaces may yellow — eventually grayish-white fungal spores emerge from these tissues. Temperatures above 69 degrees Fahrenheit often suppress peach leaf curl fungus colonies, and growth stops entirely when temperatures pass 80 F and the weather is dry.


Lime sulfur spray was once the go-to chemcial for fungal pathogens, like peach leaf curl, but is no longer considered safe for backyard use. Safer copper ammonium sprays can be made more effective by adding a 1 percent horticultural oil to the mix. Copper salts are also being investigated as treatment for this disease in home fruit trees and show promise. Chlorothanlonil is registered for peach leaf curl, but you may shy away from it because of its potential to be carcinogenic.


Many different aphids feast on every kind of fruit tree. Small numbers may go unnoticed, but as populations build, leaves yellow, curl and distort. These soft-bodied insects may be waxy, wooly or transparent, but all can be found feeding on the undersides of leaves in clusters. The feeding of most aphid colonies results in heavy production of a thick, sticky substance called honeydew that attracts ants and sooty mold colonies. The leaf curl plum aphid (Brachycaudus helichrysi) is a particular nuisance to plums and prunes (Prunus spp.) — feeding by this flying insect causes leaves to curl tightly.


Aphids are fairly simple to control, provided you are vigilant. Most aphids are slow-moving and can be sprayed off of affected trees with a weekly blast from a garden hose. Once off of the tree, they are unable to reattach. Flying aphids, like leaf curl plum aphids, may require yearly dormant treatments with phosmet or thiamethoxam, but if your tree is already in bloom or leaves are developing, horticultural oil is your safest option. Your oil spray must contact the aphids to kill them.

References (4)

About the Author

Kristi Waterworth started her writing career in 1995 as a journalist for a local newspaper. From there, her meandering career path led to a 9 1/2 year stint in the real estate industry. Since 2010, she’s written on a wide range of personal finance topics. Waterworth received a Bachelor of Arts in American history from Columbia College.

Fruit Trees

By: Garden Guides Team

09 October, 2017

  • How to Space Fruit Trees
  • Types of Fruit Trees
  • How to Fertilize Fruit Trees
  • How to Protect Fruit Trees from Freezing Temperatures
  • Caring for Fruit Trees in Tennessee
  • The Best Fertilizer for Fruiting Trees
  • Homemade Oil Spray for Fruit Trees
  • When to Plant Fruit Trees in Las Vegas?
  • The Best Time to Plant Fruit Trees in Northern California
  • How to Keep Fruit Trees From Freezing
  • Natural Sprays for Fruit Trees
  • How to Mix Malathion for Fruit Trees
  • How to Treat Your Fruit Trees for Bore Worms
  • When to Plant Bare Root Fruit Trees
  • When to Spray Fruit Trees
  • How to Landscape With Fruit Trees
  • How Often Do You Water Fruit Trees?
  • How to Ship Fruit Trees
  • How to Organically Fertilize Fruit Trees
  • Gardening Products for Fruit Trees

How to Space Fruit Trees

Most homeowners don’t have the same kind of space for growing fruit trees that, say, a commercial grower has. Homeowners also wish to keep their fruit trees smaller than commercial trees. For these reasons fruit trees are often planted closer together on residential lots than they are in a commercial orchard. Still, minimum distances should be maintained between fruit trees to prevent an overcrowded look and to maintain the health of the trees.

Choose the type of trees you want to plant. Consider whether you’ll be planting standard, semi-dwarf or dwarf varieties. Different varieties require different spacing (semi-dwarf and dwarf trees require the least).

Mark the area in which you plan to plant your trees.

Ensure sufficient space between your planting marks before digging your holes. When planting standard apple trees allow 25 feet between trees. Semi-dwarf apples need 18 feet of space between them and dwarf apples require 12 feet. Apricots need 18 feet of space; so do plums. Standard pear trees need 25 feet while a dwarf pear needs about half as much space.

Measure the distance to fences and walls as well as between the trees themselves. Allow the same space between trees and walls as you do between the trees.

Once you have determined how many of which variety you can fit within the space you have, dig your holes.

Check the spacing requirements for each type of fruit tree you want to grow.

Types of Fruit Trees

Indian Gooseberry

The Indian gooseberry tree can grow in moderate climates where the tree gets plenty of shade and moisture. It produces large, juicy, green- to orange-colored gooseberries that can be used in jams, pies and glazes.


The persimmon tree thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 7 and 10, and requires mild temperatures all year. The fruits are dark orange to red in color and delicate in flavor.

See also:  How can I control codling moth in apples, ATTRA, Sustainable Agriculture Program


Olive trees have thin branches that bear the small fruits. There are several varieties of olive tree. Some, such as the Russian olive tree, can grow in cold climates.


The lychee tree is slow-growing and massive, with thick, hard wood. It produces small red fruits that resemble strawberries, but the pretty fruit exterior is really a thick, waxy skin that contains the actual lychee fruit.


Cherry trees are found throughout the world. There are 40 or more varieties, ranging from bing cherry to black cherry. Along with the fruit, cherry trees produce light and delicate pinkish-white blossoms that are highly fragrant.

Pear trees grow well in temperate, cool climates, and they grow as tall as 17 meters in height. The large, luscious green foliage turns to shades of red and orange in the autumn months.

How to Fertilize Fruit Trees

Apply fertilizer in late fall to early spring before first buds break. Some fruit trees, such as pears, need regular fertilizing. Taking a sample of soil to your local cooperative extension or garden center for testing can help you decide if fertilizing is necessary.

Fruit trees growing in yards where lawns are regularly fertilized do not need extra fertilizer. Using the right mixture of nutrients is key to a good fruit production.

Fruit trees need a different mixture of fertilizer than other trees. Typical fertilizer contains too much nitrogen that can create a bumper crop in lush vegetation in fruit trees without much fruit production. Using a low-nitrogen mixture with water-soluble nitrogen, phosphorus and potash in a 1-2-1 ratio works best. Water-soluble nitrogen will time-release through the season for continued feeding. Generally, fruit trees may only need to be fertilized if the tree is showing signs of stress, such as yellowing leaves or stunted growth.

How to Protect Fruit Trees from Freezing Temperatures

Water the soil thoroughly when freezing temperatures are expected. Soil that has been thoroughly watered will absorb radiation from the sun more readily than dry earth will. This radiation will provide heat to fruit trees, even at night.

Apply mulch to the ground surrounding fruit trees. A thick blanket of mulch provides heat and protection from frost. If your fruit trees already have mulch, remove it to prevent damage from established pests, mold or mildew. Apply 4 to 6 inches of fresh mulch.

Cover the branches and limbs with old sheets, quilts or black plastic sheeting. However, foliage that comes into contact with the cover may be damaged by the transfer of heat. Another option is to pitch several lengths of PVC pipe around the fruit trees and create a tent with a cover. The cover material should reach the ground for maximum protection. Remove the cover on sunny days.

Cover the trunk. If you live in a region that experiences frequent freezing temperatures, cover the trunk in commercially available foam, fiberglass or paper tree wrap. Remove tree wraps in the spring.

Wrap the tree in holiday lights. The small lights provide a safe source of heat that will protect many fruit trees, especially citrus, from frost and freezing temperatures. Wind strands of small lights around the canopy and turn them on before the temperature drops.

Caring for Fruit Trees in Tennessee

Remove all grass and weeds in a circle at least 4 feet in diameter around the tree. If planting a new tree, do this prior to planting.

Prune the tops of fruit trees with a bypass pruner after they have been planted to encourage a strong leader to provide side branches. Cut and remove any side branches from newly planted trees down to ¼ inch. Cut at an angle.

Prune heavily only when the tree is in a dormant state. Remove dead or diseased shoots and branches. Thin fruit at least 6 inches apart to ensure the remaining fruit is of good quality and size.

Test the soil. A soil high in phosphorus and potassium should receive a nitrogen fertilizer. A soil low in phosphorus and potassium should receive a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10.

Fertilize your fruit trees at least 10 inches away from the trunk on the soil surface. Fertilize one month prior to new growth in the spring.

Spray pesticides as a preventive measure, and when moths, aphids and mites are present. Never spray fruit trees while they are in bloom, unless they are infected with fire blight, a fatal bacteria that gives flowers and stems a burnt appearance. Read pesticide labels carefully and use according to label directions for your fruit tree.

Paint the trunk of the tree with white latex paint to reduce winter injury. Paint the lower 24 inches of the trunk.

The Best Fertilizer for Fruiting Trees

Fruit trees generally do not need fertilization unless their growth is stunted with a growth rate of less than 8 inches per year, according to Iowa State University. If your fruit trees need fertilizing, Texas A&M recommends a 21-0-0 fertilizer for soils with a pH of above 7, or a 15-5-10 fertilizer if the pH is below 7. Apply in the spring.

Homemade Oil Spray for Fruit Trees

Wait for a day when the temperatures outside are between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. You also need a day, preferably morning, that has little to no wind or rain. Once these conditions are met, you can make and apply your homemade oil spray.

Pour the horticultural oil in a backpack sprayer. This will make enough oil spray to cover one fruit tree.

Add water to the backpack sprayer. If you need to spray more than one fruit tree, you can double the horticultural oil and water measurements.

Shake the backpack sprayer to combine the two ingredients and then spray your fruit tree with it. Make sure you are getting under all of the leaves on the fruit trees, as this is where many of the insects like to hide.

Repeat once per month until you no longer have insects on your fruit trees.

Water your fruit trees before you make the homemade oil spray. Bachman’s warns that trees do not respond well to horticultural oil if they are dry and wilting.

Do not use horticultural oil on blue spruces or blue hostas. It will turn their blue foliage green.

When to Plant Fruit Trees in Las Vegas?


Apricot trees grow well near Las Vegas. When mature, apricot trees produce fruit in spring in the region. Pomegranates are another fruit tree that grows well in Nevada. According to the University of Nevada, pomegranates have grown in the region since the 1800s

Time Frame

The best time to plant fruit trees like apricots and pomegranates in Las Vegas is during the winter. They are dormant during this time and not producing fruit. Planting in the winter also allows the roots time to establish themselves. Trees like apricots also need a winter chill to produce fruit.


There is never a good time to plant citrus fruit trees in Las Vegas. While it may seem like citrus trees like lemons and oranges would thrive in southern Nevada’s hot weather, the cold winters in the region will likely kill them.

The Best Time to Plant Fruit Trees in Northern California

The best time to plant container fruit trees in Northern California is fall, winter and spring. Winter is best for bare-root fruit trees. They can still be planted in summer if watered thoroughly, though the heat will make it more difficult for the tree to become established.

How to Keep Fruit Trees From Freezing

Run power cords to the area where the trees are located. If the trees are a long way from a power source, you might need to use a generator.

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Plug in a variety of freeze helpers such as large fans, space heaters or heat lamps. While you won’t use them all at the same time, the heaters and heat lamps would work well together. Heaters stay on the ground near the base of trees and allow hot air to rise through the branches, while the heat lamps hang in the branches, giving them a closer heat source. Fans keep air moving so frost cannot settle on fruit or buds.

Spray fruit trees with mist during extremely cold temperatures. The mist freezes over the branches, fruit and buds. This thin layer of ice acts as a shield to outside weather conditions and protects the tree from burn.

Wrap small trees that are not fully grown in burlap. The cloth shields the young trees against wind and keeps off frost.

Use exterior power cords, which have more insulation to protect from shock or overloading your circuit breaker or fuse box.

Natural Sprays for Fruit Trees

Seaweed Spray

Seaweed spray poses a double benefit to fruit trees. First, seaweed spray contains zinc, iron, barium, sulfur, calcium and magnesium–minerals essential to a plant’s energy production. Second, seaweed spray naturally repels slugs, making it an excellent spray around the base of a fruit tree.

Soap Spray

Soap is a strong natural insect killer that is entirely harmless to people. Soap acts by melting the insect’s waxy coating–causing them to dehydrate. For an added potency, soap can be mixed with some canola oil. The canola oil absorbs into the insect’s exoskeleton and smothers them. Soap spray should be applied from both above and below a tree so that both sides of the leaves are covered.

Hot Pepper Sauce

Mites do a great deal of damage very quickly to a tree’s foliage and bark. Exterminate and repel future grubs through the use of hot pepper sauce. For a strong treatment, mix together some hot pepper sauce and soap in a gallon of water. Let the mixture sit overnight and spray it onto the plants the next morning. The mixture is harmless to all parts of the plant, but will kill the mites by melting their waxy coating and burning them to death. Even more effective, the hot pepper sauce remains on the tree to prevent future mite damage.

How to Mix Malathion for Fruit Trees

Put on a long-sleeved shirt, and a pair of long pants before using the insecticide with malathion. The Gowan Company also recommends wearing socks and shoes. This will prevent the chemical from accidentally splashing on your skin.

Put on a pair of chemical-resistant gloves, a mask and a pair of goggles.

Pour 1 1/4 pt. of insecticide containing malathion in a garden sprayer.

Add 12 gallons of water to the garden sprayer and mix the two ingredients together.

Spray the insecticide directly onto the foliage, as well as the fruit on your fruit tree. If your fruit tree is tall, you may need a ladder to reach the top of the tree. It is easier if you start at the top of the tree, and work your way down.

You can use a backpack sprayer if you don’t have a garden sprayer.

Keep all animals and children indoors when using an insecticide that contains malathion. Do not let them back outside until the insecticide has dried completely. Some insecticide brands may vary; always read the directions for the correct quantities.

How to Treat Your Fruit Trees for Bore Worms

Control flatheaded appletree borers by keeping your trees in good condition through fertilization and wrapping, suggests the University of Missouri Extension. This type of borer usually extricates his adult self from your tree in May and lays eggs on the bark all summer. By fertilizing areas of the trunk that are exposed, and wrapping the lower levels of trunk in burlap, the pests will not be able to lay eggs directly on the bark.

Cut the outer layer of bark on your fruit trees open if you notice larvae or adult borer worms, and kill the pests with your knife. This method works only if you only cut superficial layers of bark and see very few larvae on the bark; cutting too deeply will damage the tree.

Spray the lower limbs of your fruit trees liberally with chemical insecticides to kill off the bore worms and eggs — enough so that the product puddles on the ground. Permethrin-based sprays can be effective in controlling appletree borers. Chlorpyrifos-based products are effective on peachtree borers and a simple wash of latex paint may control shot hole borers, according to the University of Missouri Extension.

When to Plant Bare Root Fruit Trees

Bare-root fruit trees are generally purchased and planted during the winter, when they are dormant. Mid-December to mid-February is the optimum time.

When to Spray Fruit Trees

How to Landscape With Fruit Trees

Map out your landscape design. Use graph paper to create a map of where you want to plant the trees, including the distance between the trees to support the growth. Take into account the amount of sunlight, soil type and the type of fruit trees you intend to use in your design.

Purchase a minimum of two of each of the types of fruit trees that you want to plant. Choose disease-resistant varieties.

Space out your trees and place them on the ground prior to planting. Double check with you garden design and make changes as you see fit.

Plant your fruit trees. Dig a hole two times the depth and widths of the root ball. Set the tree in hole and fill it with the soil you removed. Cover the base of the tree with mulch.

Full fruit production can take up to three seasons. Flowering fruit trees will bloom every year, regardless of the fruit production. Choose fruit tress for your design that are complimentary to your overall look and feel, in both size and blooming colors. Water your new trees frequently as the roots begin to set and establish.

Read the label of the fruit trees you intend to plant to ensure the size of the trees are comparable to the look you have on your design.

How Often Do You Water Fruit Trees?

Water fruit trees once a week during their first season. Young saplings transplanted from containers require more frequent watering until the root ball adjusts to the new location.

How to Ship Fruit Trees

Clean the fruit tree roots. Place them under running water to remove any soil. Spread on a table to dry; takes approximately one hour.

Label trees with the species and variety. Use labels with strings attached and write in permanent marker.

Line a 2-gallon bucket with burlap. Place the fruit tree seedling in the bucket.

Fill the bucket with sterile soil. The soil should cover the roots and 8 inches of the trunk.

Wrap the burlap around the soil and roots. Secure with wire ties.

Place the trees into the shipping box. Fill empty spaces with pack peanuts to secure the trees in place.

Tape box closed. Properly address a priority mail label and affix to the box.

Obtain a certificate of health from your local extension office before shipping to Hawaii or California.

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