Rhubarb Planting, Care and Harvesting Guides
Botanical name: Rheum rhabarbarum
Plant type: Fruit
Sun exposure: Full Sun
Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable, though it is generally used as a fruit in desserts and jams. You only eat the stalks, which have a rich tart flavor. The leaves of this plant are poisonous, so be sure that they are not ingested. Rhubarb is easy to grow, but needs cool weather to thrive.
- Before planting, eliminate all perennial weeds.
- Choose a site that is well-drained, fertile, and preferably in full sunlight. It does best where the average temperature falls below 40ºF in the winter and below 75ºF in the summer.
- Plant rhubarb roots (not seeds) in early spring well before the first light frost so that root development may take place.
- Dig large bushel basket-size holes. Space rhubarb plants about 4 feet apart and plant the roots 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the soil.
- Be sure to mix compost, rotted manure, or anything high in organic matter in the soil. Rhubarb plants are heavy feeders and need this organic matter. Don’t add a chemical fertilizer when planting rhubarb or during the first year of growth. Direct contact with nitrates can kill your rhubarb plants.
- Mulch generously with a heavy layer of straw and cow manure to provide nutrients for the plant, retain moisture, and discourage weeds.
- Water your plant well. It needs sufficient moisture during the summer.
- Remove seed stalks as soon as they appear.
- After the first spring, apply a light sprinkling of a high-nitrogen fertilizer (25-3-3 or 10-6-4) when the ground is thawing or has just thawed, so that the fertilizer will go into the ground and not harm the roots.
- Insects and diseases won’t bother rhubarb plants as long as you keep the plants weed-free.
- Dig and split rhubarb roots every 3 to 4 years.
- Crown rot
- Do not harvest any stalks during the first growing season so that your plants can become established. (Side note ~ took a clump last year from friends garden and you can see how well it has done. what i did was remove the entire clump and leave in original sod, dug a quick hole double space needed for root ball and filled around original root ball with good garden mix of topsoil, peat moss and compost. it should be fine as long as roots are not disturbed in transplant.)
- Harvest the stalks when they are 12 to 18 inches long. Usually after 3 years, the harvest period runs 8 to 10 weeks long. If the stalks become thin, stop harvesting; this means the plant’s food reserves are low.
- Grab the base of the stalk and pull it away from the plant with a gentle twist. If this doesn’t work, you can cut the stalk at the base. Be sure the discard of the leaves!
- Always leave at least 2 stalks per plant to ensure continued production. You may have a bountiful harvest for up to 20 years without having to replace your rhubarb plants.
- Red rhubarb varieties, which are more tender. Some include ‘Valentine’, ‘Crimson Cherry’, and ‘Canada Red’.
- Rhubarb Crunch
- Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
- Rhubarb Grilled Chicken
- Rhubarb Pudding (An old recipe)
- Blueberry-Rhubarb Jam
- Rhubarb Punch
- Cold Rhubarb Soup
- Stewed Rhubarb with Spiced Whipped Cream
Wit & Wisdom
Rhubarb has many other uses, from medicinal to cosmetic. See how to naturally lightening your hair with rhubarb.