The garden may look bleak in winter, but your patio pots can liven things up, whether you’re adding winter flowers, berries or bright foliage to the mix.

1. Underplant climbers with winter plants

Underplant perennial climbers with colourful cyclamen. (Hannah Stephenson/PA)
Underplant perennial climbers with colourful cyclamen (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

If you have climbers in pots next to the house, whose leaves have fallen and are now offering no colour or interest, use the bare space to underplant them with brightly coloured winter flowering plants such as cyclamen, heather, variegated ivy or ornamental cabbage. Cyclamen should do well in sheltered areas out of the rain, as they will suffer if they are too wet or over-watered.

[Read more: 7 new pots to perk up your patio in the spring]

2. Let existing potted conifers become a foil for winter bedding

Make conifers a backdrop for winter pansies. (Hannah Stephenson/PA)
Make conifers a backdrop for winter pansies (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Keep conifers you had in pots as a backdrop to summer bedding, but fill up the spare space with new and different winter stalwarts. Good candidates include Skimmia ‘Rubella’, violas and winter-flowering pansies, which should flower until the worst weather hits but will re-emerge to bloom again in spring. Also, wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) which bears festive red berries, or burgundy-leaved ajuga.

3. Leave ornamental flowerheads on permanent plantings

Hydrangea flowerheads. (Hannah Stephenson/PA)
Hydrangea flowerheads (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

If you have permanent plants such as hydrangeas in containers, leave the flowerheads on, which will not only add winter interest but also protect the plant from the worst of the weather.

[Read more: The ultimate guide to making the most of your hanging baskets]

Make sure you choose large plants and place them close together for immediate impact, as they won’t grow very much in winter.

Place plants close together for maximum effect. (Hannah Stephenson/PA)
Place plants close together for maximum effect (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Place your container where it will get as much light as possible during the shorter days of winter, to help the foliage remain green and healthy.

Water plants carefully, making sure you don’t saturate them, but at the same time checking the compost to ensure it hasn’t dried out. Poor watering is the main reason so many plants perish in the cooler months.