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The arrival of colder weather doesn't necessarily spell the end for colourful tender plants, says plantsman Graham Rice
It always seems sad when the end of the season is on the horizon and we know that our patio flowers will be ruined by frost, especially as so many of them are actually perennial plants which would continue to bloom were it not for the change in the weather. But if you have a conservatory, or even a cosy porch, some of your patio favourites in containers will continue to flower into the winter – and even beyond.
Shrubby plants such as citrus, fuchsia and Plumbago auriculata, as well as banana plants, will thrive with some protection, although in a conservatory it’s important that the atmosphere not be allowed to become too dry or red spider mite could prove troublesome.
Some succulents will take a little frost, but why risk it? Aeoniums, agaves (such as Agave parryi, right), aloes and echeverias make splendid conservatory plants though agaves need thoughtful positioning - they can be uncomfortably spiny.
New Guinea impatiens are more susceptible to frost than most patio plants but will continue to flower with conservatory protection, as will the tougher pelargoniums and argyranthemums.
Begonias and coleus will almost always continue their display when moved inside. I’ve also found that the Million Kisses series begonias (see left), and others of this type derived from B. x boliviensis, are especially adaptable but as they continue to grow they may need some discreet support.
You’ve probably been nipping the flowering shoots off your coleus all summer and they will continue to try to produce spikes of blue flower once you’ve moved them inside. Late in the season some gardeners leave the flowers to develop, but for the best foliage effect continue to nip them off.
Of course, actually moving the pots can be tricky if they’re large - get help if necessary, don’t risk your back. Manoeuvring each on to a piece of old carpet and then dragging it across the paving often makes moving large pots easier and I’ve seen low-wheeled carts specifically for moving pots on sale occasionally.
It goes without saying that plastic lookalike 'terracotta' is much lighter in weight than the real thing - and never water the container on the day you move it – or the day before.
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Plants for winter containers outdoors
How to look after plants in containers
RHS hardiness ratings
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