As the mercury plummets and biting frosts start to nip at our fingers and toes, we’re all likely to be piling on extra layers of clothing and cranking up the central heating – but do we give as much thought to our poor plants as they shiver out there in the garden, or on the patio or balcony?

Garden trends in recent years mean that many of us now have at least a few prized outdoor plants in pots – and lots of these are likely to need some extra TLC if they’re to make it through the chillier months.  Here are just a few ways to ensure those prized plants will survive to bloom again for another spring.

Identify those of your potted plants that are hardy enough to stay outside, and create a winter home for them in the most sheltered  spot in the garden, perhaps nestled by a shed or porch.  Relocate them there for the next few months, either by planting them directly in the ground or burying the whole pot in the earth, adding a layer of mulch for insulation.

For your more tender potted plants, it’s best to move them 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 reaching them.  Do be sparing with the watering can though, as cold and soggy roots are guaranteed to kill off tender specimens.

Whenever it turns especially cold, adding an extra layer of protection is always 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, the plant pots themselves can start to suffer.  Traditional clay ones in particular are susceptible to cracking and then shattering, so make  regular checks on them and be prepared to re-pot a plant at the first sign of any pot damage.

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

Any tropical-type plants you have outside will definitely need to be taken 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 safe to go back into the garden.