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The fun of indoor gardening in Colorado during the winter

by Ed Powers
This is my 7th winter in Evergreen, Colorado and having lived 34 years at sea level I find the winters at 8,000’ a bit more difficult in caring for indoor plants such as violets, orchids, bonsais and succulents.  But I have enjoyed it here more than anywhere else, and I have learned to adapt to my surroundings.  For instance, my African Violets are in my garden room located in my basement.  Besides dealing with the thin atmosphere in the winter there is also cooler temperatures down there.  After 3 winters of this I believe I have solved the problem; I put them on heat mats with thermostats (the kind you use for growing seeds) and cover my plant cart with heavy plastic sheets. I have found that I can keep the temperature ~ 67 to 77 degrees in the cart.
Plant Stand in Basement with lights, heating pads and plastic cover.
The orchids were a bit more difficult to adjust for.  When I moved here, I brought 4 orchids and lost all of them to disease within 4 weeks.  The main problems were fungus and aphids.  What I learned was the basement, even though relatively dry, attracts these problems.  So, I spent the next 5 years researching and trying new methods to avoid such problems.  I learned that I needed to keep the orchids in plastic or solid ceramic pots; putting them in pots sold as orchid pots (ones with holes) dried them out fast and lead to death.  So, I pot all my orchids in solid pots and put them in the heated, covered plant stands that hold my violets. 
My wife’s plant table with African Violets and an Orchid
We also have plants upstairs.  My wife keeps her violets and an orchid in our bedroom on a table facing the south, in full sun, which she augments with a sun lamp in the late afternoon/early evening. I do water regularly and fertilize all my plants once a month, as does my wife with her plants. 

I also have Bonsai trees.  Like the violets and orchids, the 14 trees I brought died within 4 months.  Again, I learned to keep the trees moist and fertilized, and I keep them in warmer areas with a lot of sun in the winter.  Now I have 5 indoor Ficus trees, 5 pine and fir trees, and they are doing well.
Indoor Ficus Tree Bonsai's in basement area
I used the CSU Extension as well as the University of Nebraska websites, plus general information found on the internet, for ideas to help plants survive in my basement.  I have enjoyed this research process and will continue to improve my plant care.
All photos by Ed Powers

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