Grow Rhubarb

Edited by Graeme, Anonymous, Lynn, Eng and 1 other

...More
Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a popular vegetable, although most people think it's a fruit. Most people like it when it's used in pies, muffins, jams, sauces, cobblers, chutneys and savory dishes. There are both red and green varieties. Even though you can eat the stalks of the rhubarb plant, the leaves and roots contain oxalic acid, so they are highly poisonous to humans.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Rhubarb is a perennial plant, which means it will grow every year and, if tended properly, the same plant can be harvested from for 10-20 years. This makes rhubarb an amazing plant that many people really enjoy growing and eating.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Rhubarb is a very hardy plant that needs cool temperatures when it's dormant and moderate temperatures during spring and summer. It needs this cycle of dormancy and growth to produce the edible stalks.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

The best mix of temperatures for growing rhubarb is 40 degrees F or below in winter and no higher than 75 degrees F in the summer. This means that it will grow well in the northern US, southern Canada, the UK and northern Europe. It won't grow well in hot climates like the southern US or southern Europe.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Ad

Preparing to Plant Rhubarb

So if you've decide to grow rhubarb, now you must get the soil ready. Having excellent soil conditions is vital if you want success in growing your rhubarb. While it prefers being planted in acidic soil with a pH level of around 5, it grows best at a pH of between 6 and 8.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  1. 1
    To begin with, get rid of all weeds in the area in which you propose growing it.
    Advertisement
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Then, dig the soil to a reasonable depth and add organic material such as compost or well-rotted manure so the soil has the nutrients and texture the plant needs.
    This should be done about four weeks prior to planting.
    Advertisement
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    For best results, plant in soil that drains well.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Seeds or Plants

Rhubarb can be started from seeds, but it usually takes three or more years before you'll harvest any stalks. Plus, you can never be sure what you are getting when growing from seeds as they don't always come true and may not exhibit the same characteristics as the mother plants, this can also affect its taste. For more certain results, probably the best way to grow rhubarb is by buying and planting crowns that are several years old.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Growing from Seeds

  1. 1
    If you really want to grow from seeds, they will need to be soaked in warm water for several hours prior to planting.
    Then, plant the seeds in a good soil mix. Seedlings should appear about 10 days after sowing. The plants will need another two months or so to mature.
    Advertisement
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Depending on weather conditions, by the end of the growing season, the stalks should be about a foot or more long, but they will probably be far too thin to harvest in their first year.
    Once they are between two to four years old, the plants could have grown to four feet in diameter and up to three feet tall (the size plants will grow is very dependent on soil and climatic conditions). Although you can probably take a few stalks from a two year old plant, it's best to wait until the following year to harvest more than that.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Growing from Crowns

  1. 1
    If you grow the rhubarb from crowns.
    Rhubarb Crown
    The crowns need to be several years old and should be planted in early spring at about 4 inches below ground, 24 inches apart, with the tops of the crowns roughly two inches below ground level.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    To propagate or split the plant because it's gotten too big, dig up the crown and cut it into sections, plant each section in the same way as mentioned above.
    Make sure each section of the crown has a bud and some roots that are several inches long. For best results, split crowns in early spring.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Caring for Rhubarb Plants

Be sure to weed around your plants regularly, as rhubarb doesn't like the competition and can be easily damaged. Add a good general fertilizer regularly and water well but the plant should not sit in water.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Harvesting Rhubarb Plants

  1. 1
    By the second or third year the rhubarb will be ready to harvest.
    Do this by cutting the stems at ground level or pulling them up sharply. Limit your harvest to three or four stalks per each plant, and leave the rest to regenerate. As the years go by and the plant spreads, you'll be able to harvest more stalks each year.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    In the winter, the rhubarb needs to go dormant, cover it with leaves, hay or compost to protect the crowns.
    To keep the plant thriving, they should be cut down to the ground every four or five years or if it gets spindly or over crowded.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    The bottom line is that if you want to grow tasty rhubarb, you have to have patience and wait a couple of years before harvesting.
    Plus the rhubarb must be grown in cool temperatures and acidic, well-fertilized soil. Follow these suggestions and you can have a bountiful harvest to cook into delicious desserts or savory dishes for your family and friends.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Forcing Rhubarb

If you recoil at the price of rhubarb in the grocery store, especially when it's out of season in your area, growing your own in the dark or forcing, is a great way of getting tender sweet stems much earlier than you otherwise would.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

What is Forcing?

  1. 1
    Forcing is the process of "fooling Mother Nature" by putting the plants in total darkness and adding a little warmth.
    People have been forcing rhubarb since the 1800's and at one time England's West Yorkshire region grew over 90 percent of the forced winter rhubarb that the whole world enjoyed. In order to prevent the rhubarb bolting, harvesting was done using candle light.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    The commercial growers use "forcing sheds", but home gardeners can force their rhubarb in a garage, cellar, greenhouse, garden shed or other outbuilding.
    Forcing can also be done out in the garden.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    Total darkness sets up the conditions in which the plant cannot create chlorophyll through the process of photosynthesis.
    Having the light totally excluded means the plant seeks light and in the process it grows pale, sweet stems. Unlike rhubarb grown the usual way, forced rhubarb usually requires less sugar to balance its tartness and its taste is far more delicate.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Forcing Outdoors in Situ

  1. 1
    Forcing in Situ in late winter means there is no disturbance of the dormant crowns.
    Use upturned pots, cover the hole of the pot with tape or use special rhubarb forcers to prevent any light from getting to the budding crowns. Then bank up straw outside the pot or insulate the inside of the pot with straw to create a micro-climate around the crown. You can also pack straw around the outside of the upturned pot, but this might encourage slugs into this lovely warm environment or create conditions that will make the crown too wet so it rots. If the stalks start flowering, cut these off, as flowering will affect the growth of the stalks.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    After covering, the rhubarb will usually be ready to cut within eight weeks.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    It's not a good idea to force the same crowns for more than two years in a row.
    You need to let the plants recover for at least a year (two would be better) after being forced; otherwise they could be weakened and more susceptible to disease.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Forcing Rhubarb Indoors

  1. 1
    After the last harvest, late autumn or early winter, before winter's freeze really sets in, dig up the roots or crowns of the plants you intend to force.
    Take as much soil as possible with the crowns you dig up. Well established plants are the best ones to use.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Put the crown in a half barrel or large pot and cover with soil.
    At this point you could add compost or well-rotted manure and straw to protect against frost. Keep the soil moist but not wet.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    Place the pot somewhere cool – a garage, cellar, potting shed or greenhouse – the temperature should be around 10 degrees C or 50 degrees F.
    Cover the pot with an upturned pot or forcer, and you can use any cover that excludes light but it needs to be big enough to allow the plant to grow. Your crowns have to be in total darkness. Under these conditions, your plant will slowly grow stalks or petioles. Don't let them dry out, but equally don't allow the plant to get too wet.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  4. 4
    You should be able to harvest your forced rhubarb approximately four to six weeks after bringing the plants indoors.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  5. 5
    In the spring, the forced plants can be put back into the garden.
    As with forcing outdoors in Situ, it's not a good idea to use the same crowns for forcing for more than two years in a row. You need to let the plants recover for at least a year (two would be better) after being forced, otherwise they could be weakened and become more susceptible to disease.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Speeding up Your Spring Harvest

  1. 1
    Even though you might not want to bother with forcing, you can seriously "encourage" your rhubarb to produce stalks for earlier harvesting by using a clear sheet plastic to cover the plants before the crowns start to grow in early spring.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Because it holds the heat, the plastic helps to speed up the plant's growth.
    Once the plants show new growth, put holes in the plastic for ventilation. As the leaves grow, remove the plastic covering completely.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Important Facts

  1. 1
    Forced rhubarb will yield about half what the same plant will yield if grown outside.
    So, in order to have sufficient rhubarb for your needs, you may want to force several crowns.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Leave the pots that you've planted the crowns in outside until the rhubarb has been exposed to several hard frosts (0 degrees C or 32 degrees F).
    This rest period is an important part of the growing cycle, and having been frosted, the plant will produce stronger growth and better stalks.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    While any rhubarb cultivars can be used, there are certain varieties that are specially bred for forcing:
     
    1. "Victoria" – widely available
    2. "Stockbridge Arrow" – vigorous and widely used in the "rhubarb triangle" of Yorkshire in England
    3. "Timperley Early" – or any other varieties with "early" in its name
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

    Advertisement
  • Don't be at the mercy of the grocery store prices or the insipid flavor their rhubarb usually has early in the season. With a little effort you can harvest wonderfully sweet rhubarb well before the season really starts.
Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Questions and Answers

What should outdoor rhubarb look like at the end of the season mid to late fall? should it show new growth?

I am growing Rhubarb in Kansas. I am using different growing methods. Some of my Rhubarb are showing healthy new growth. Is that typical?

VisiHow QnA. This section is not written yet. Want to join in? Click EDIT to write this answer.

Comments

VisiHow welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.




Hotweb
Premier Author
10 Articles Started
601 Article Edits
22,925 Points
Hotweb is a premier author with VisiHow. Hotweb has achieved the level of "Lieutenant" with 22,925 points. Hotweb has started 10 articles (including this one) and has also made 601 article edits. 28,500 people have read Hotweb's article contributions.
Hotweb's Message Board
Hotweb: Hi, my name is Hotweb.
Hotweb: Can I help you with your problem about "Grow Rhubarb"?
 

Article Info

Categories : Gardening

Recent edits by: Eng, Lynn, Anonymous

Share this Article:

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 1,610 times.

Do you have a question not answered in this article?
Click here to ask one of the writers of this article
x

Thank Our Volunteer Authors.

Would you like to give back to the community by fixing a spelling mistake? Yes | No