Winter patio ideas: 11 ways to make the most of your backyard in cooler weather

Our edit of winter patio ideas will inspire you to embrace the coldest season in style

winter patio ideas: moda furnishings furniture on patio
(Image credit: Moda Furnishings)

On the lookout for winter patio ideas? We're here to help. As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, you might be tempted to abandon your outdoor living area almost entirely. But why waste the valuable space? With the right styling, you can make the most of it all winter long.

In fact, the best winter garden ideas will transform a once-upon-a-time summer haven into a magical, cozy retreat as the seasons shift. We're talking twinkling lights, a crackling fire, stunning container displays, and layers of soft textiles, all brought together to be enjoyed beneath fresh winter skies.

From Scandinavian-inspired neutrals and rustic details to boho spaces piled with jewel-toned accessories, we've got plenty of looks to get you inspired.

11 beautiful winter patio ideas to try at home

There's something for everyone in our edit of winter patio ideas, whatever your preferred outdoor style.

1. Dress it up with twinkling lights

winter garden lighting by dobbies

String lights around trees and garden structures for a magical glow, like in this set-up from Dobbies

(Image credit: Dobbies)

'Outdoor lighting is a quick and easy addition to cozy up your space,' says interior and garden stylist Selina Lake. 'Festoon lights will add a lovely illuminating twinkle,' she adds – try stringing them around a pergola, porch, or along a fence. Outdoor string lights are another gorgeous option and can be used to decorate trees.

'Tea lights and candles scattered on outdoor dining tables add a romantic feel for early evening outdoor dining,' Selina continues. She also suggests using pendant lights to light up garden buildings – try combining vintage glass shades with filament bulbs.

And, if you want to go a step further with your winter patio ideas, invest in some beautiful light-up woven creatures. From deers to rabbits, they'll add a delightful dose of character that both adults and children will adore.

2. Add festive flair with a wreath

christmas patio with wreath and presents

Pair evergreen foliage with splashes of red

(Image credit: David Brittain/Future)

One of the highlights of winter is, of course, the festivities. So why not dress your garden to suit?

A rustic wreath made from evergreen foliage and studded with pinecones and berries will add seasonal charm, and can be finished with a red ribbon for extra pizzazz. Hang up on your wall, or your back door. 

Keep the theme going by adding cozy, patterned throws and soft sheepskins to your outdoor seating, whilst miniature pine trees in pots won't go amiss (and can be decorated, too).

And don't forget about the heating. As stylist Selina Lake says, 'Your garden doesn’t need to be out of bounds just because the weather begins to chill. As temperatures drop, the addition of a chimenea, fire pit, or installation of a wood-burning stove will add some gorgeous warmth to a seasonal outdoor space.'

Then, all you need to do is serve up some mulled wine or apple juice and you have the perfect backdrop for a winter garden party.

3. Cozy up with warm-hued accessories

autumn winter cozy patio with fire pit and cushions from dobbies

This cozy scene from Dobbies has a boho vibe that we love

(Image credit: Dobbies)

Warm tones of burnt orange, terracotta, ruby red and emerald green are often go-tos for autumn styling. But, they work just as well in a cozy winter set-up.

Take a look at this scene, for instance, which perfectly layers an array of velvet cushions and tasselled throws. An abundance of lanterns ties in with the tonal palette and, dotted across different levels, draws the eye around the space. Add gold accents for a touch of luxe.

Terracotta pots filled with winter foliage offer further texture and form. And that statement fire pit will keep everyone warm. You can find more fire pit ideas in our feature.

4. Stick to neutrals for Scandi-chic style

cosy patio with chiminea

This elegant scene mixes neutral shades and tactile textures

(Image credit: David Brittain/Future)

Neutrals don't have to be boring. Soft creams, gentle blush, ivory and shades of mink can work together to create an understated yet incredibly sophisticated scheme. And it works beautifully for a winter patio, offering a Scandi-chic vibe.

The trick is all in the textures. Mix up woven wools, rattans, faux furs and wood for plenty of visual and tactile interest. Simple white lanterns and treasures foraged from nature – think pine cones, feathers and foliage – will make pretty additions.

This sleek chiminea has caught our eye, too. We love how it introduces an aspect of industrialism with its metal exterior, adding an unmistakably modern element to the scene. It's ideal if you're on the lookout for modern garden ideas.

5. Embrace a rustic edge

hellebores and snowdrops in winter container display

Use natural decorations to embellish your container display

(Image credit: Natalia Greeske/Alamy Stock Photo)

Give your winter outdoor patio ideas an organic tone by utilizing natural elements. The simplest of terracotta pots can be updated with twigs and twine, as shown here, whilst surrounding a glass candle holder in pine cones gives an instantly wintery feel. Using moss to top-dress containers of winter blooms is another lovely tip that will give your styled scenes a woodland vibe.

The theme can extend to other areas of your patio, too. As the team at Dobbies say, 'Our obsession with natural materials is also set to continue into the colder months with sculptured rattan and bent bamboo to remain a staple component of outdoor furniture.'

If you're a fan of rustic garden ideas, this is a great approach.

6. Add texture with hardy ornamental grasses

dobbies autumn garden scene with string lights

This scene from Dobbies will look fantastic throughout the seasons

(Image credit: Dobbies)

One way to bring structure and winter interest to your patio is with ornamental grasses. There are some beautiful varieties that will put up with cold weather and will happily thrive in a pot, including festuca, miscanthus and pennisetum. Just make sure the containers have plenty of drainage.

Dot them around your patio or deck, bring in some outdoor lighting ideas and a big comfy outdoor sofa, and you'll be all set for winter entertaining.

You can find more tips on how to grow ornamental grasses in our guide.

7. Get your pergola winter-ready

black painted pergola with lights and furniture from bridgman plus fire pit

This black painted pergola makes a striking backdrop for cozy lights and a Mocha sofa set from Bridgman

(Image credit: Bridgman)

Give your pergola a winter makeover and turn it into a welcoming nook this season. 

Festoons with oversized bulbs will add a contemporary, industrial tone that works particularly well against charcoal-painted backdrops. You could also hang winter baskets from the beams for added color – our guide to the best plants for winter hanging baskets is full of inspiration. 

Small occasional tables can be decorated with potted plants or lanterns. And then, for an eye-catching focal point, add a statement fire pit (just check with your manufacturer first, to ensure it's safe to do so). 'Firelight creates a more intimate setting, allowing your guests to relax and unwind,' says Jonny Brierley, CEO of Moda Furnishings. 'Fire provides a visual, psychological comfort from which you and your guests will benefit.'

8. Or, turn a greenhouse into a welcoming retreat

alitex greenhouse with cosy autumn styling by selina lake

This Alitex greenhouse has been given a cozy makeover by stylist Selina Lake

(Image credit: Julia Currie/Styling by Selina Lake)

If sitting outdoors in midwinter feels a little beyond your comfort zone, why not make the most of your garden building instead? This beautiful greenhouse has been transformed into a cozy den by Selina Lake and makes the ideal place to retreat on a chilly afternoon.

'A garden room with mains power can benefit from an electric stove; I’ve used the Sunningdale stove by Dimplex for this project,' she says. It's 'the perfect spot to gather round with friends or loved ones.'

Our she shed ideas are also worth a peruse if you're looking for more inspo.

9. Make potted trees part of your container display

small winter patio with containers

Arrange your containers at different heights

(Image credit: Heinz Hauser/botanikfoto/Alamy Stock Photo)

If you've seen our guide to the best plants for winter pots, you'll know that there are plenty of options when it comes to cold-weather container displays. So, embrace the opportunity to get creative and fill your patio with bulbs, blooms, and greenery. Use benches and steps to arrange them on different levels.

Don't forget about trees, too. Dwarf firs and pines make great choices, as do small hollies which can be cut neatly into shapes. 

10. Style your windows

window decorated with small potted pines and wreath

Brighten windows with winter decorations

(Image credit: Natalia Greeske/Alamy Stock Photo)

Jazzing up windowsills as part of your winter patio ideas is an approach that can work in even the smallest of plots.

Narrow window boxes filled with colorful, cold-weather flowers are one idea to try (consider adding outdoor microlights for extra sparkle). But, we like this super-simple style too, complete with wreaths, miniature trees, and a rustic branch to keep it all in place.

11. Give wildlife a helping hand

robin on bird feeder in winter garden

Encourage robins and other winter birds to your garden

(Image credit: STEPHEN FLEMING/Alamy Stock Photo)

The coldest season can be tough on our local wildlife, but it's easy to give them a hand in your own backyard.

Bird feeders, boxes and baths come in all kinds of stunning styles, so you're bound to find designs that complement your plot. Our buying guide to the best bird feeders will help you get started.

What's more, seeing feathered friends flit around your space will bring joy to everyone, even if you're watching them from a kitchen window.

You can find more wildlife garden ideas in our feature.

  • As well as helping out local wildlife, there are plenty of other winter garden jobs you can add to your list. Our guide has lots of ideas for keeping busy outdoors.

How do you make a winter patio garden?

There are all kinds of plants that you can use for a seasonal patio display, from scented climbers to plants with frosted foliage and winter color. But, 'before you get started considering the plants, consider what they will be displayed in, where they will be displayed, and how you will display them,' advises Squire's Garden Centres

'For instance, containers are a great way of growing many of these plants to provide winter interest and you have the added advantage of being able to move them around,' they continue. 'If it's climbers you'd like, make sure you have a trellis to support their upward growth.' Remember that trellises can also double up as handy screens to create zones in your space.

Also, think about whether your planting area needs some care of its own, adds Squire's. For example, it might need a bit of de-weeding, a clear-up of leaves, a fresh layer of topsoil and perhaps some new mulch. You can learn all about composting and mulching in our guides.

white heather in pot

White heather is a lovely choice for a winter pot

(Image credit: Minna Mercke Schmidt/Future)

How can you enjoy your patio in winter?

'Making your patio winter-friendly is a great way to enjoy your garden even in the colder months,' says Chris Bonnett at GardeningExpress.co.uk

Here are a few of his tips to create a cozy haven that you'll be enticed to use, no matter the temperature:

  • 'Of course we want to add some warmth,' he says. 'So, it's worth investing in something like a small fireplace or you could even build your own.' Our guide on how to build a fire pit has simple step-by-step advice.
  • 'Some people even choose to install patio shades at this time of year to create a more enclosed space in an attempt to keep some cold out,' he continues.
  • 'Once you deal with practical elements like these, you can then focus on making a cozy outdoor space that's stylish too, by adding warm fabrics, blankets, cushions and some lights.'
  • 'Going for warm tones will also help to add warmth – think browns, creams and grays.'

corner sofa and fire pit table from moda furnishings on winter patio

This cozy set-up features a corner sofa and fire pit table from Moda Furnishings

(Image credit: Moda Furnishings)

Can patio furniture be left outside in winter?

Some outdoor furniture is better at tolerating winter weather than others. Designs made from wood, aluminium, composite materials and powder-coated and stainless steel all tend to be safe bets. 

On the other hand, uncoated steel and iron furniture can be prone to rust, so it's best to bring it indoors or pop it in a dry shed for the season. It's not a good idea to leave natural rattan out either (it can warp and crack over time), although there are plenty of composite versions which are better suited. And, although fabric features such as awnings and parasols are often made to be weatherproof, bringing them inside during the winter months will help to prolong their life.

If you want an update for your yard, our buying guide to the best garden furniture has lots of lovely picks.