If you live in a relatively moderate climate, where outdoor temperatures seldom drop much below freezing, it is possible to protect plants through the winter by enclosing a patio with panels of clear, heavy-duty vinyl.
One Houston family is thus able to use its roofed-over patio summer and winter. In summer, two whirling ceiling fans keep the air circulating and clear of mosquitoes and flying bugs. It is an area open on one side to the sun, where small children can play comfortably and where parents can easily keep an eye on them.
In winter, greenhouse conditions may be reproduced by putting in place framed floor-to-ceiling panels, which can be made at the local lumber store. The patio then becomes a safe place to store potted patio plants or garden plants during cooler months. The sun shines through the vinyl during the day, providing natural solar heat to the plants. On very cold nights, two or three electric lights are kept lighted in the space to provide necessary additional heat.
So far, all plants placed in the enclosed patio have survived beautifully. Right now the plants being protected include hibiscus, ficus, black olive trees, yucca, croton, and African jade.