In the Garden: Phlox

Published: Aug. 23, 2019 at 5:20 PM EDT
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Phlox is a late summer beauty in the garden, but it's not completely carefree! Garden expert Charlie Nardozzi showed our Sharon Meyer how to sidestep some problems.

Sharon Meyer: Charlie, the phlox is beautiful but I have to tell you I've always had trouble growing phlox!

Charlie Nardozzi: What's your problem?

Sharon Meyer: That mildew stuff it gets!

Charlie Nardozzi: That mildew stuff! Yes, the phlox this year is beautiful, mostly because we had so much rain and they love a lot of moisture. Then you get these big clumps of phlox, like this one, that are just outstanding.

Sharon Meyer: But doesn't more rain mean more mildew?

Charlie Nardozzi: Well, that too. But there are lots of varieties, so let's start with that first. There are these beautiful pink varieties, white varieties, purple varieties and some that have little stripes on the petals. And each one of these clusters could have 50 to 100 individual flowers in them. That's why they look so beautiful!

Sharon Meyer: Gorgeous, yes.

Charlie Nardozzi: But, like you were saying, one of the key problems with phlox is they get powdery mildew disease. When you are selecting phlox, look for powdery mildew disease-resistant varieties. So varieties like "David," "Natashia," "Robert Poore" and "Shortwood." There are a whole bunch of different ones out there. Look at the tag, make sure it's disease resistant. If it isn't, don't buy it!

Sharon Meyer: Stay away!

Charlie Nardozzi: Stay away because it's going to cause headaches for years and years for you! If you do have an old heirloom variety that you love but it gets mildew, you can plant it so it gets good air circulation, like today. That helps dry out the leaves. And you can also spray fungicides like Serenade on them. But you have to do that as a preventive. It's too late now to do anything about it. And, of course, clean them up well in the fall.

Sharon Meyer: So as soon as they start coming up, start spraying them with Serenade? Like every...

Charlie Nardozzi: Well, when you start seeing some signs. So, it can either be white on the leaves or yellow on the leaves. Those are usually signs that powdery mildew is starting and usually it happens mid to late summer. It won't be early on in the season.

And these are great flowers to have for bees, butterflies-- they love to be attracted to them. And you can cut them as cut flowers and if you keep deadheading them, they'll flower right into fall.

Sharon Meyer: Beautiful.