Rhubarb is a delicious, hardy and productive plant that grows for many years.
Get ready to embark on an exciting journey into the world of “How to Grow Rhubarb.” If you’re craving a touch of tartness in your garden, rhubarb is the answer. This authoritative guide will equip you with all the know-how and tips you need to cultivate thriving rhubarb plants and revel in their tangy goodness.
So, grab your gardening gloves and let’s dive in, combining our expertise with a pinch of fun to make your rhubarb-growing experience absolutely delightful!
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Growing Rhubarb Quick Facts
Quick Fact Details Best Time to Plant: Spring is the best time to plant rhubarb crowns or divisions. Choose a location where the plant will receive full sunlight. Soil pH: Rhubarb thrives in soil with a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5. Slightly acidic soil is ideal for optimal growth. Soil Type: Well-draining and fertile soil is essential for rhubarb. Loamy soil with plenty of organic matter works best. Sunlight: Rhubarb plants require full sunlight to flourish. Make sure they receive at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. Rhubarb benefits from deep watering once a week, especially during dry spells. Fertilizing: Apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring when the shoots emerge. Avoid excessive nitrogen, as it may lead to weak stems. Plant Spacing: Plant rhubarb crowns or divisions about 3 to 4 feet apart to allow ample room for their large leaves to spread. Common Pests: Watch out for pests like aphids, slugs, and snails. Implement natural pest control methods or use organic insecticides if necessary. Companion Planting: rhubarb alongside beans, cabbage, or peas can be beneficial. Avoid planting near nightshades like tomatoes or potatoes. Harvest Time: Rhubarb can be harvested in the second year after planting. Only harvest stalks that are at least 10 to 12 inches long by gently pulling them away from the crown. Avoid cutting the stalks, as this may invite diseases. Harvest sparingly in the first year to allow the plant to establish a strong root system.
Selecting the Best Rhubarb Variety
Rhubarb comes in just a few varieties and often you willjust get one or two options at your local store. Since rhubarb is typically grown from dividing a plant you will likely purchase a plant. We divide our rhubarb every few years and have created a large patch of rhubarb.
Victoria: Victoria is one of the most common and widely grown rhubarb varieties. It is known for its excellent flavor, vibrant red stalks, and green-tinged leaves. The stalks are relatively thick and have a good balance of sweetness and tartness, making them ideal for pies, jams, and other culinary uses. Victoria rhubarb plants are vigorous and productive, making them a favorite for both home gardeners and commercial growers.
Crimson Cherry: Crimson Cherry rhubarb stands out for its striking bright red stalks, which are not only visually appealing but also deliciously sweet. This variety is perfect for those who prefer a milder taste and want to reduce the amount of sugar used in recipes. The stalks remain tender even as they mature, and their stunning color adds a pop to any dish or garden space.
Canada Red: Canada Red rhubarb, as the name suggests, features brilliant red stalks with green leaves. It has a pleasantly sweet flavor and is lower in oxalic acid than some other varieties, reducing the sharpness of its taste. This makes it an excellent choice for raw consumption or lightly cooked dishes, where its natural sweetness shines through. Additionally, Canada Red is known for its hardiness and ability to withstand colder climates.
Timperley Early: Timperley Early is a rhubarb variety renowned for its earliness in the growing season. It produces tender, slender, and bright red stalks with a well-balanced flavor profile. Due to its early harvest, it is often a popular choice for those eager to enjoy fresh rhubarb early in the spring. This variety is also relatively easy to grow, making it a suitable option for beginners or those with limited gardening experience.
How to Grow Rhubarb
When to Plant Rhubarb
Rhubarb should be planted in the early spring, as soon as the ground is workable and frost danger has passed. This is the best time to establish rhubarb crowns or divisions, allowing them to take root and establish a strong foundation before the growing season kicks in. Planting in the spring gives the rhubarb ample time to develop healthy, robust plants that will yield bountiful harvests in the following years.
Rhubarb grows best in zones 3-8. Find your growing zone here.
How to Plant Rhubarb
To plant rhubarb, choose a sunny location with well-draining soil that has a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5. Prepare the soil by adding compost or well-rotted manure to improve fertility and drainage. When planting crowns or divisions, dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the roots and plant them with the buds just below the soil surface.
Space the plants about 3 to 4 feet apart to allow ample room for their large leaves to spread. Water the newly planted rhubarb thoroughly and consistently to help establish the roots. Avoid harvesting in the first year to allow the plant to grow strong, and in subsequent years, harvest sparingly to ensure continuous productivity. With proper planting and care, your rhubarb plants will thrive and provide delicious harvests for many years to come.
Rhubarb Care and Maintenance
Proper care and maintenance are essential for the successful growth of rhubarb plants. Once established, ensure the soil remains consistently moist by watering deeply once a week, especially during dry spells. Applying a layer of mulch around the plants can help retain moisture and suppress weed growth. Rhubarb benefits from a balanced fertilizer application in early spring, but be cautious not to overfertilize with nitrogen, as it may lead to weak stems.
Remove any flower stalks that emerge during the growing season to redirect the plant’s energy into producing robust stalks. Regularly check for common pests like aphids, slugs, and snails, and address them promptly using natural pest control methods or organic insecticides if necessary. As the stalks mature, harvest by gently pulling them away from the crown instead of cutting, and avoid overharvesting to allow the plant to replenish its energy.
In winter, provide protection by adding a thick layer of mulch around the crown to insulate it from freezing temperatures. By following these care and maintenance practices, your rhubarb plants will thrive and reward you with a bountiful harvest year after year.
Harvesting and Storing Rhubarb
Harvesting and storing rhubarb correctly are crucial steps to enjoy its delicious bounty. Rhubarb can be harvested in the second year after planting, allowing the plant to establish a strong root system. Only harvest stalks that are at least 10 to 12 inches long, by gently pulling them away from the crown with a slight twist, as cutting the stalks may invite diseases. It’s essential to leave a few stalks on the plant to continue its growth and energy production.
During the first year, avoid heavy harvesting to encourage robust plant development. When storing rhubarb, remove the leaves immediately as they are toxic and can lead to spoilage. Wash and dry the stalks thoroughly, then wrap them in a damp paper towel before placing them in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Fresh rhubarb can be stored for up to two weeks, but for longer-term storage, consider freezing the stalks after blanching them briefly. By following these harvesting and storing practices, you can savor the tangy goodness of rhubarb long after the growing season has ended.
Best Tips for Growing Rhubarb
- Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil and a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5.
- Plant rhubarb crowns or divisions in early spring, as soon as the ground is workable and frost danger has passed.
- Space the plants about 3 to 4 feet apart to allow enough room for their large leaves to spread.
- Keep the soil consistently moist, watering deeply once a week, especially during dry spells.
- Apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring, being cautious not to overfertilize with nitrogen.
- Remove any flower stalks that appear during the growing season to divert energy into stalk production.
- Watch out for common pests like aphids, slugs, and snails, and address them promptly with natural pest control methods or organic insecticides if needed.
- Harvest rhubarb stalks in the second year after planting, pulling them gently away from the crown instead of cutting.
- Avoid heavy harvesting in the first year to allow the plant to establish a strong root system.
- Store harvested rhubarb correctly by removing toxic leaves, washing and drying the stalks, and refrigerating them wrapped in a damp paper towel.
- For longer-term storage, consider freezing blanched rhubarb stalks.
Common Rhubarb Problems and Solutions
Poor Growth or Thin Stalks
Ensure that the rhubarb is planted in a sunny location with well-draining soil enriched with organic matter. Apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring to provide essential nutrients for healthy growth. Adequately water the plants, especially during dry spells, to prevent stress and promote robust stalk development.
Pests such as Aphids, Slugs, and Snails
Implement regular monitoring of the plants for early detection of pests. Handpick and remove visible pests or use natural predators like ladybugs to control aphids. Set up beer traps or use diatomaceous earth to attract and eliminate slugs and snails. Applying organic insecticides made from neem oil or garlic-based solutions can also help deter pests.
Diseases like Crown Rot or Leaf Spot
Plant rhubarb in well-draining soil to prevent waterlogged conditions that can lead to crown rot. Avoid overhead watering to reduce moisture on the leaves, which can promote leaf spot disease. If leaf spot is observed, promptly remove and destroy affected leaves to prevent the spread of the disease. Applying fungicides containing copper can help prevent and control certain fungal diseases.
Bolting (Premature Flowering)
Bolting can occur due to stress, such as temperature fluctuations or inadequate water supply. Ensure consistent watering and mulching around the plants to maintain soil moisture and regulate temperature. Harvesting rhubarb stalks promptly and removing any flower stalks that emerge can also prevent bolting and redirect the plant’s energy into stalk production.
Winter Damage or Frost
In colder regions, provide protection in winter by adding a thick layer of mulch around the crown to insulate it from freezing temperatures. Avoid cutting back the foliage in the fall, as the dried leaves can help protect the crown. If winter damage occurs, trim away damaged parts in the spring, and the plant will likely recover and regrow.
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