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Tomato leaf mould

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last updated Apr 3, 2014
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Tomato leaf mould

Leaf mould can develop rapidly to cause significant yield loss in greenhouse-grown tomatoes. It is rarely seen on outdoor crops.

What is tomato leaf mould? Back to top

Leaf mould is a fungal disease that affects the foliage of tomatoes, particularly those grown in greenhouses.  You may sometimes see the causal fungus referred to as Fulvia fulva or Cladosporium fulvum, but it is now known as Passalora fulva. Symptoms are sometimes confused with those of other foliar diseases such as grey mould or tomato blight.

Symptoms Back to top

The first symptoms of leaf mould can develop in April or May, but it is more usually found in June or July and can develop quite suddenly. You may see the following symptoms:

  • Lower leaves are generally attacked first
  • Yellow blotches develop on the upper leaf surface
  • A pale, greyish-brown mould growth is found on the corresponding lower surface
  • Where the disease is severe the mould growth may also be found on the upper surface
  • Heavily infected leaves turn brown and shrivel, but do not fall
  • The grey mould fungus, Botrytis cinerea, may colonise affected leaves, masking the leaf mould. The spores of grey mould are more powdery, and the fungal growth more fluffy than that of leaf mould
  • Flowers and fruit may be attacked, but this is less common than leaf infection
  • Affected plants lack vigour and yield poorly

Control Back to top

Non-chemical control

  • Provide ample ventilation to avoid an excessively moist atmosphere
  • Try to avoid wetting the leaves when watering. This is particularly important when watering in the evening, as the leaves may then stay wet throughout the night
  • Avoid an over-dry soil or growing medium (which could also lead to other problems such as blossom end rot)
  • Try to avoid temperatures above 21°C (70°F)
  • Trim off some of the lower leaves once fruit has set to encourage air circulation
  • Pick off infected leaves as soon as they are seen, and dispose of affected plants and all debris at the end of the season. Disinfect the greenhouse structure with Jeyes Fluid (tar oils) or Armillatox (tar acids). Apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Resistant varieties: Current resistant varieties include ‘Dombello’, ‘Estrella’, Eurocross BB’, ‘Grenadier’, ‘Shirley’ and ‘Cumulus’. However, the varieties may not be resistant to all races of leaf mould – if the disease develops despite the use of one of these varieties, try a different one

Chemical control

  • Copper-based fungicides (Vitax Bordeaux Mixture, Bayer Garden Fruit and Vegetable Disease Control) are approved for use on tomatoes. While they do not carry specific recommendations for use against leaf mould, they are likely to have some activity against the disease. Use as directed for the control of tomato blight
  • Yields begin to be affected when severe leaf mould has been present for about six weeks. If the disease appears close to the end of cropping, then the use of fungicides is unlikely to give any benefit in terms of extra yield (but may help with the end-of-cropping clean-up by reducing the number of spores available for over-wintering)


Fungicides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining fungicides available to gardeners)

Biology Back to top

  • The leaf mould fungus produces huge numbers of microscopic spores on affected leaves
  • These are spread by air currents, insects or on hands or clothing
  • They are resistant to dry conditions and may overwinter on leaf debris and greenhouse structures
  • Infection and disease development is greater in warmth and high humidity. Under these conditions the disease can spread very rapidly
  • Plants that have been weakened as a result of dryness at the roots may also suffer severely
  • The fungus is known to exist as a large number of strains or ‘races’ that differ in the tomato varieties that they can attack

Quick facts

Common name Tomato leaf mould
Scientific name Passalora fulva
Plants affected Tomato
Main symptoms Yellow patches on upper leaf surface, with grey-brown mould growth on corresponding under surface
Caused by Fungus
Timing Symptoms first seen in late spring