RHS ranking reveals pests and diseases rife in UK gardens

Friday 2 March 2018

  • Annual ranking reveals most troublesome pests and diseases in 2017.
  • Honey fungus ranked number one disease for 22nd year with box suffering three top ten plant health issues.
  • Fuchsia gall mite and diseases of edible crops expected to take hold in 2018.

Honey fungus and box tree caterpillar were the dominant plant health issues in 2017, according to analysis of Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) gardener enquiries.

Now in its 22nd year, the annual ranking is a guide to new and growing areas of concern for gardeners and includes a number of pests and diseases first identified by the RHS, such as kerria twig and leaf blight that features in the top ten for the first time this year.

In 2017, box tree caterpillar returned to the number one spot after dropping to number seven in 2016. Increasingly common in London and the Home Counties the caterpillar feeds on the leaves of box from within a protective webbing causing severe defoliation.

In what was a bad year for the plant, it also battled box blight and volutella blight – both of which cause twig and leaf death. While the box tree caterpillar is expected to continue its spread, the issue of blight may be decreased by growing gardener awareness of how to manage it and breeding of resistant varieties.

Honey fungus has retained the disease top spot for the 22nd year running, which can be attributed to its numerous and diverse host range that includes popular garden plants such as the rose, rhododendron and Prunus. RHS research currently underway is intended to help gardeners better manage the disease that attacks and kills the roots of perennial plants before decaying the wood.

Pests and diseases to watch in 2018 include fuchsia gall mite which makes its fourth and highest appearance in the top ten having first been discovered in the UK in 2007. Reported for the first time in South Wales and Cheshire in 2017, the microscopic mites cause the shoots and flowers of fuchsias to distort.

Changing weather conditions, the withdrawal of fungicides and the use of highly susceptible cultivars, is also expected to see a rise in the number of diseases of edible crops such as apple and pear scab that causes dark, scabby markings on fruit and pear rust that causes bright orange spots on leaves.

Top ten plant pests and diseases 2017:

  Pest 2017   Disease 2017
1 Box tree caterpillar 1 Honey fungus
2 Fuchsia gall mite 2 Phytophthora root rots
3 Vine weevil 3 Rusts
4 Slugs and snails 4 Powdery mildews
5 Alder leaf beetle 5 Box blight
6 Viburnum beetle 6 Volutella blight of box
7 Tortrix moth 7 Leaf spot and canker of Prunus
=8 Glasshouse mealybug 8 Verticillium wilt
=8 Pear blister mite 9 Blossom wilt of fruit trees
10 Woolly aphid 10 Kerria twig and leaf blight

More information about the top ten pests and diseases is available on the RHS website: www.rhs.org.uk

Gerard Clover, Head of Plant Health at the Royal Horticultural Society, said: “This year’s pest and disease ranking points to the continuing problems inflicted on gardens by old foes like honey fungus but also new and emerging threats like box tree caterpillar, fuchsia gall mite and kerria twig and leaf blight. With new pests and diseases emerging in continental Europe, it has never been more important that people get to grips with what is going on in their gardens.”

To help mitigate the risk posed by pests and diseases, the RHS is adopting six new principles that will guide its activity across gardens, shows and plant centres and hiring three new senior staff who will oversee plant health issues. This includes Xylella fastidiosa which the RHS has labelled a ‘game changer’ for gardeners and the horticultural industry.

More information is available at www.rhs.org.uk/science/plant-health-in-gardens/plant-health-policy

2017 and 2016 plant pest comparison:

  Pest 2017   Pest 2016
1 Box tree caterpillar 1 Slugs and snails
2 Fuchsia gall mite 2 Vine weevil
3 Vine weevil 3 Fuchsia gall mite
4 Slugs and snails 4 Glasshouse thrips
5 Alder leaf beetle 5 Woolly aphid
6 Viburnum beetle 6 Tortrix moth
7 Tortrix moth 7 Box tree caterpillar
8 Glasshouse mealybug 8 Rosemary beetle
9 Pear blister mite 9 Viburnum beetle
10 Woolly aphid 10 Ants

2017 and 2016 plant disease comparison:

  Disease 2017   Disease 2016
1 Honey fungus 1 Honey fungus
2 Phytophthora root rots 2 Phytophthora root rots
3 Rusts 3 Box blight
4 Powdery mildews 4 Rusts
5 Box blight 5 Powdery mildews
6 Volutella blight of box 6 Volutella blight of box
7 Leaf spot and canker of Prunus 7 Leaf spot and canker of Prunus
8 Verticillium wilt 8 Apple and pear scab
9 Blossom wilt of fruit trees 9 Blossom wilt of fruit trees
10 Kerria twig and leaf blight 10 Quince leaf blight



Notes to editors

About the RHS: The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood to inspire passion and excellence in the science, art and practice of horticulture. Our vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener, healthier, happier and more beautiful place. We believe everyone in every village, town and city should benefit from growing plants to enhance lives, build stronger, healthier, happier communities and create better places to live.

We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, our flagship garden, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity. At our gardens and shows and through our scientific research, publications, libraries and our education and community programmes we inspire a passion for gardening and growing plants, promote the value of gardens, demonstrate how gardening is good for us and explain the vital roles that plants undertake.

The RHS is committed to bring the joy of gardening to millions more people, inspire the next generation of gardeners and invest in the future to safeguard a £10.4 billion industry employing more than 300,000 people. We are entirely funded by our members, visitors and supporters. RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and help us secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 020 3176 5820, or visit www.rhs.org.uk/join

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For more information please contact Laura Scruby in the RHS press office: laurascruby@rhs.org.uk / 0207 821 3060

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About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262