RHS names members' top plant diseases

The RHS has named the top 10 garden diseases of 2013, based on enquiries received by the RHS Gardening Advice team.

For the 18th year running honey fungus is the number one disease, with its presence confirmed on 215 samples, covering 78 plant genera.

The mild, wet autumn of 2013 is thought to be behind a record increase in Cylindrocladium (4th) and Volutella (5th) box blight cases, with enquiries for both diseases reaching their highest levels since the RHS began keeping detailed digital records in 1996.

As in 2012, leaf spots and Pythium occupied the 2nd and 3rd spots in the list.

Rusts (8th) were less common in 2013, with enquiries falling more than 50 per cent on the 2012 figure, which means it slipped four places down the list from a high of 4th in 2012. This was mainly because heuchera rust was less common in nurseries in 2013, while the dry summer restricted the spread of the damp-loving disease that thrived in the very wet summer of 2012.

RHS chief scientist Dr John David says: "The high rainfall levels we experienced in 2013 provided the perfect conditions for certain diseases to thrive, most notably Cylindrocladium and Volutella box blight. Should our weather continue to be marked by extreme events, whether that's extreme wet or warmth, we could see an increase in these types of disease.

"Through our daily interaction with RHS members, via our Gardening Advice and diagnostic services, we are at the forefront of the fight both to identify and advise on the most effective way for gardeners to limit the impact of diseases."

Top 10 diseases in 2013 and 2012 (percentage of overall complaints and number of enquiries in brackets)

2013 enquiries

1. Honey fungus
8.6 (236)
1. Honey fungus
7.4 (188)
2. Leaf spots
6.0 (164)
2. Pythiums
5.7 (143)
3. Pythiums
5.6 (154)
3. Leaf spots
5.5 (138)
4. Cylindrocladium blight of box
4.6 (125)
4. Rusts
5.2 (131)
5. Volutella blight of box
4.5 (124)
5. Phytophthora diseases
4.6 (115)
6. Phytophthora diseases
3.3 (91)
6. Cylindrocladium blight of box
3.0 (80)
7. Saprophytic fungi
2.6 (72)
7. Saprophytic fungi
3.1 (78)
8. Rusts
2.2 (59)
8. Volutella blight of box
2.5 (63)
9. Root and stem rots
(including damping off)
2.0 (55)
9. Root and stem rots
(including damping off)
2.1 (53)
10. Powdery mildews
1.4 (38)
10. Scabs
2.1 (52)


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