Date: May 13, 2020

7 Tips from Shipshewana Flea Market for Selecting the Perfect Perennial

By Lora Gates

I can never seem to remember the difference between a perennial and an annual. There are two mindsets, and no matter what I think, I always end up having to Google it to be sure I am right. Annual (meaning it comes back annually) is the accurate description, but I can’t help but to think that annual might also mean you have to plant it annually… so my internal argument continues year-after-year😊.


Shipshewana Farmer's Market vendor Pat Cox of Cox Landscaping and Nursery in  Howe, Michigan pictured in the Farmer's Market of Shipshewana Flea Market in Shipshewana Indiana. Standing outdoors in front of a variety of plants, shrubs, flowers, perennials and nursery items.


Hopefully you don’t struggle with this but either way, you can find both perennial and annuals in the Farmer’s Market section of the Shipshewana Flea Market.


Pat Cox, co-owner of Cox Landscaping & Nursery took a few minutes to straighten out my crazy thinking on the two and shares some great tips along the way for selecting the perfect perennial for your yard this season!

To clear up my own confusion, once again, a perennial is a plant that comes back, ideally when Mother Nature obliges. So to help her out, you also might want to be sure you pick the right plant and the best location for it to thrive.


We have lived in our current home for a little over two years and with a lot of extra time on our hands due to COVID-19 this year, we are doing a little extra landscaping this spring. I set off to the Shipshewana Flea Market Farmer’s Market to decide on the perfect perennial because I would love it to come back every year and that's what a perennial is now that I have that straight again!


Step 1: Find Your Planting Spot

We have some stumps being removed, so I want to fill them in and this keeps me from having to seed and puts a decorative touch on our yard.


Step 2: Pick the Perfect Plant

It can’t be that simple, right…. so, this may actually be step 7, follow steps 3 – 5 to actually get you there! It’s a little like, which came first, the chicken, or the egg. I guess I could do one of two things, I could pick the plant and then put it in the right spot or I could pick the spot and buy the right plant for that area.


Lupine, a purple colored Perennial pictured in the Farmer's Market of the Shipshewana Flea Market in Shipshewana Indiana behind Yoder's Meat and Cheese.

Lupine – Another Amazing Perennial Possibility


Step 3: Assess the Area for Sun Intensity – Or Lack Thereof😉

Is your planting spot, full sun, partial sun, or shade? Once you've gotten that determined, then you have to look for that particular variety of plant. Let's say it's on the south side of your house where it's gets blasted by the hot sun. You're going to want to look for a plant that's gonna’ take that heat because if you put a tender perennial in that needs mostly shade, that plant is not going to survive.


Step 4: Determine Ideal Plant Size

Once you find some options that meet your sun requirements, then you’ll want to decide just how big you want these plants to grow. If you've got a window there and your perennial gets four-feet tall, it may block your view and you obviously are going to be blocking your view. In that case, you may want to figure out which size perennial best suits your taste.


Step 5: Assess Your Soil Quality

Ok, you’re almost there, you’ve picked the spot, we've assessed the sunlight, desired plant size, determine the soil quality and the needs for that plant. If you plant a perennial in the sand and two years down the road, before it starts to get too big you want to move that plant somewhere, you'll never get a good root ball. So, when you do plant you may want to mix in a little topsoil.


I selected a gorgeous purple Azalea, and our ground is sandy, so I will definitely have to add this step for our needs, but if your soil is really clay-like, you may want to dig a bigger hole (suggested twice the size actually needed) and add topsoil for the opposite reason that the roots won’t be able to break through such thick soil to get a good grip and root ball. Then back-fill with some top soil – or compost - and enjoy your excellent work.


Step 6: OK, Now You Can Pick the Perfect Perennial!


Step 7: Give it Some TLC (Tender Lovin’ Care)

Although many perennials are not high maintenance, a few simple tips can help the plant grow to its best potential. You will want to let the foliage die back and not cut anything in the spring especially until you have made it past that last seasonal frost! If you uncover it too soon it might not thrive as well!


You will also want to deadhead the blooms once they are totally dried up. It promotes a healthy plant. You just find those shriveled blooms and snap them right out. It just helps the plant, not exactly sure why, and it just helps make the plant look prettier.


Purple Azalea, shown with one bloom deadheaded to promote growth of this perennial in the Farmer's Market of the Shipshewana Flea Market in Shipshewana, IN

Azalea plant pictured showing a bloom that has been deadheaded after it shriveled away.


To get more advice and pick the perfect perennial for your own home, stop by the Shipshewana Flea Market Farmer’s Market to speak with Pat or one of our other amazing vendors offering seasonal plants, flowers, trees, shrubs and produce each Tuesday and Wednesday from May through September.


Plan your next Shipshewana Flea Market visit and get more information by downloading our Free Shipshewana Flea Market Trip Planner today!


Download PDF of Flea Market Trip Planner

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