Keeping ‘pet plants’ warm

As the temperatures plummet and finger-biting frosts descend, we’re all piling on the layers of clothing and cranking up the central heating – so don’t forget those poor shivering specimens out there in your garden, patio or balcony.

Garden trends mean that most of us now have at least a few prized outdoor plants in pots – and during the autumn and winter many of these will need some extra TLC to survive.  Here are just a few ways to ensure those prized plants will survive to bloom for another spring. 

For any potted plants that are hardy enough to stay outside, create a winter home by finding the most sheltered spot in the garden, perhaps by a shed or porch, and relocating them there for the next few months.  Either plant them directly in the ground or bury the whole pot in the earth, adding a layer of mulch for insulation.

More tender potted plants are best moved into the protective environment of an unheated garage or shed, in a sheltered porch, or up against a wall of your house.  Group them together for mutual protection and make sure they have at least some filtered light.  Be sparing with the watering can though, as cold and soggy roots are guaranteed to kill off tender specimens.

When it’s super-cold, adding an extra layer of protection is a good idea, so use some bubblewrap or even old towels or cut-up quilts to cover your pots and secure with garden twine or duct tape.

After lots of freezing and thawing, pots themselves can start to suffer, and clay ones in particular are susceptible to cracking and then shattering, so check on them regularly and be prepared to re-pot a plant at the first sign of any pot damage.

As well as cutting down on watering (plants don’t need so much in their dormant season), make sure containers drain well, because too much water left sitting on the top of soil can freeze and cause severe damage to the plant.

Any tropical-type plants you have outside will definitely need to be invited indoors, so if you haven’t got a conservatory or heated greenhouse  just clear a few window ledges or sacrifice a bit of space in your bathroom, where the steam from the shower should keep them happy until it’s time to go back into the garden.