Welcome, Dan. One of the best ways to deal with powdery mildew, which is what phlox is so prone to in our humid summers, is to prevent it by improving air circulation in and around the plant. Do this as shoots emerge by "thinning" the clumps–just use your finger (or a pruner if need be) to knock out like a third of the shoots, to space the remaining ones less closely together. The plant will breathe better, so to speak, and that will help prevent the fungus from overtaking it. Another good preventive step is to spray starting before the outbreak occurs with a homemade anti-fungal like a solution of water, baking soda and horticultural oil. Rosarians do this with their roses to prevent black spot, another fungal pest; recipes vary but it’s approximately a teaspoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of horticultural oil (from the garden center) in a quart of water, or a tablespoon or so of each in a gallon. Other gardeners swear by horticultural oil alone. Another truly preventive method: Grow mildew-resistant varieties, which give you the best shot of success. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant Evaluation program is an excellent source for PDFs on the best cultivars of many kinds of plants, including Phlox (Issue #13 at http://www.chicagobotanic.org/research/plant_evaluation/). Margaret
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Welcome! I’m Margaret Roach, a leading garden writer for 25 years—at ‘Martha Stewart Living,’ ‘Newsday,’ and in three books. I host a public-radio podcast; I also lecture, plus hold tours at my 2.3-acre Hudson Valley (NY) Zone 5B garden, and always say no to chemicals and yes to great plants.