Cloches are small, tent like structures which cover plants to protect them from the elements. They are generally used in protecting seedlings, young plants, cuttings and tender plants from cold, winds, pests. They can also be useful for planting earlier in the season (put the cloche on for a couple of weeks beforehand to warm the ground up before planting).

They are made from material with a degree of transparency (to let light get to the plant), such as:


  • Expensive
  • Breakable
  • Long lasting
  • Excellent insulation and light transmission qualities

Rigid plastic

  • Cheap
  • Easily scratched
  • Won’t keep plants very warm
  • Light transmission properties will degrade over time
  • Will last for 5 years or more.


  • Similar to plastic; more expensive but last longer
  • Will last for at least 10 years (if double walled)


  • Very cheap
  • Light transmission will be less than plastic (especially if there is condensation)

Horticultural fleece

  • Cheap
  • Reduced light transmission (which can be helpful in providing shade)
  • Good insulator

Cloches come in various different forms:

Tent cloche

Two sheets of glass or plastic fixed together to form an apex, with plastic end pieces so it doesn’t create a wind tunnel. Good for germinating seeds, growing seedlings and protecting low growing plants.

Tunnel cloche

Arches of metal or plastic create a tunnel which is then covered with horticultural fleece or polythene. The ends are tied together to close the tunnel. Tunnel cloches can also be rigid structures made from plastic or polycarbonate, these will keep their shape better but will require more storage space. These are often used for crops such as strawberries or to provide early crops with warmer conditions.

Barn cloche

These are rigid structures which look like mini barns – with straight sides and a sloping sided ‘roof’. Some come with opening roofs, allowing for ventilation and ease of access for watering and weeding. These tend to be more expensive than tunnel or tent cloches.

Individual/bell cloche

Often seen, made from glass, in Victorian gardens. Individual cloches form a protective cover for single plants, either in their early stages of growth or to protect vulnerable plants from particularly harsh weather. While purchasing Victorian style glass bell cloches may not be within most people’s budget, cheaper (albeit less attractive) alternatives include cut off plastic bottles and plastic replica bell cloches (make sure you peg these down otherwise they will blow away!).

Floating cloche

This is simply a sheet of perforated polythene or horiticultural fleece pegged down, or weighed down by soil, over the ground. They help warm the ground up by a degree or two to assist in the germination of seeds or growing on of seedlings. The cloche should be slightly loose to allow the plants to push it up as they grow and to ensure a good air flow underneath it. A floating cloche can be easily cut to size so it can fit an entire plot or just go over a particular plant.

Some cloches also incorporate a self-watering system; either collecting rainwater and distributing it within the cloche, or via a hosepipe attachment.