If you live in a relatively modest climate, it is possible to protect potted plants through the winter by enclosing a roofed-over patio with wood-framed panels of clear heavy-duty vinyl. To those handy with a hammer, it can be an easy do-it-yourself project. Those who prefer to leave the carpentry to others can hire someone to do the job. One Houston family did just that, hiring a workman at a local lumber store to make several made-to-measure floor-to-ceiling panels. Each autumn the panels fit into place to snugly enclose the family's three-sided patio. Putting them in place is a simple five-minute chore.
In winter, the father of the family reproduces greenhouse conditions in the same space with the vinyl panels. The patio then becomes a safe place to store all the potted patio, deck, and garden plants during cooler months. The sun shines through the vinyl during the day, providing natural solar heat. On very cold nights, two or three electric lights are kept lighted to provide additional heat.
So far, all the plants in the enclosed patio have managed to survive several winters. Plants protected by the panels include hibiscus, ficus, black olive trees, yucca, croton, and African jade.