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What to do about frost-heaved Eastern hemlock cutting?

last month

I have a few cuttings of Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) that I was able to root, and I noticed this evening that the roots have become exposed. We had a couple of very cold nights, and I'm assuming the culprit is frost heaving.

Any tips on what I should do next? Do you think the exposed roots were damaged/killed in the cold, or can I save the plants?

I've attached pics of the plant that was worst hit. You can see the exposed roots in the close-up. We're in the Philly area in Zone 7a, and the cuttings were taken from trees upstate in Zone 6a. I rooted them and transplanted them to six-inch containers of peat:perlite, and they're now overwintering in an attached greenhouse. The outside temperature dipped to about 9 degrees last night, but the greenhouse is usually 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the outside air temp, so I'm guessing the cuttings were not exposed to cold below 15 degrees. I watered the plants well about three or four days before the cold snap. The pots are wrapped in bubble wrap and surrounded with straw bales, so there was some insulation, but the exposed roots were, of course, exposed.

I'm guessing I should prepare some more moist peat/perlite and gently mound it over and around the roots to re-bury them when the temp thaws tomorrow (we're supposed to get into the mid-40s), but I really don't know what to do and don't want to damage them more.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


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