Frost Heave

Frost heave

Q. I noticed roots showing around some of my perennials. Is this normal? Is there anything that I should do about it?

A. It is not uncommon to see perennials heaved out of the ground at this time of the year. Fluctuations in temperature during the winter and repeated freezing and thawing of soil cause some plants to heave or push themselves out of the ground, and expose the plant's roots to the elements, especially in areas that have no snow cover. Shallow-rooted plants, such as foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), coral bells (Heuchera), seathrift (Armeria), and perennials planted late in the fall that have not fully established their root systems are more susceptible to heaving.

During periods of milder weather, gently tamp the roots back into the ground. Sometimes it is helpful to add a small layer of soil to the exposed roots to keep them from drying out, freezing, and being damaged by rodents or other animals. Resist the temptation to work in your garden at this time of year. Digging garden beds that are too wet can ruin the structure of the soil and make the beds unsuitable for planting.