How to Grow and Care for Rhubarb

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Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable known for its tart-flavored stalks that are often used in pies and desserts.

With its large, decorative leaves and easy-to-grow nature, rhubarb can be a great addition to your garden.

Growing and caring for rhubarb requires some patience as it takes time to establish, but the reward of fresh, homegrown rhubarb is well worth the wait.

This guide will provide you with comprehensive instructions on how to grow and care for rhubarb, ensuring a bountiful harvest.

How to Grow Rhubarb

Growing rhubarb involves understanding its specific needs and providing the right conditions.

From choosing the right variety to understanding the optimal growing conditions, each step is crucial to ensure a successful growth.

This section will provide you with a detailed guide on how to grow rhubarb.

  1. Choose the Right Variety: There are several varieties of rhubarb, each with its own growth requirements and characteristics. Some popular choices include Victoria, Canada Red, and Crimson Red.
  2. Prepare the Soil: Rhubarb prefers well-drained, fertile soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Amend your soil with compost or well-rotted manure to improve its texture and fertility.
  3. Plant the Rhubarb: Plant rhubarb crowns in the early spring. Dig a hole wide and deep enough to accommodate the crown, place it in the hole with the top just at or above soil level, and backfill with soil.
  4. Care for the Plants: Water regularly, especially during dry periods. Remove any flower stalks that appear, as they can reduce the vigor of the plant.
  5. Harvest the Rhubarb: Begin harvesting rhubarb in the second year after planting. Grab the stalk near the base and pull it away from the plant with a gentle twist. Remember, only the stalks are edible – the leaves are toxic if ingested.

Where to Grow Rhubarb

The location where you choose to grow your rhubarb can greatly impact its growth and yield.

Rhubarb needs a good amount of sunlight and well-drained soil to thrive.

This section will guide you on the best places to grow rhubarb.

  1. In the Garden: If you have a garden with full sun to partial shade, this is an ideal place to grow rhubarb. Ensure the area gets at least 6 hours of sunlight each day and has well-drained soil.
  2. In a Dedicated Vegetable Patch: Rhubarb can be grown alongside other perennial vegetables in a dedicated patch. This allows for easier maintenance and harvesting.
  3. Along a Fence or Boundary: Rhubarb’s large leaves can provide a nice visual barrier along fences or boundaries.
  4. In Containers: If you’re short on space, rhubarb can be grown in large containers. Choose a deep container with drainage holes and fill it with high-quality potting soil.

Remember, no matter where you choose to grow your rhubarb, ensure they have enough water, sunlight, and nutrient-rich soil to thrive.

How to Plant and Care for Rhubarb

To successfully grow and care for rhubarb, it’s important to understand the planting and care requirements.

How to Plant Rhubarb

Rhubarb can be planted using crowns, which are sections of the root containing the buds, or through seeds.

Here are the steps to plant rhubarb:

  • Choose a suitable location: Select a site with well-drained soil and full sun or partial shade. Rhubarb prefers slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8.
  • Prepare the soil: Before planting, prepare the soil by removing weeds, rocks, and debris. Add organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve soil fertility and drainage.
  • Planting crowns: If using crowns, dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the entire crown. Place the crown in the hole with the buds facing upward and cover it with soil. Space the crowns at least 3 feet apart to allow room for growth.
  • Planting seeds: If planting from seeds, sow them in well-prepared soil in early spring. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and keep the area consistently moist until germination occurs.
  • Watering: After planting, water the rhubarb thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots. Provide regular watering throughout the growing season, aiming to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
  • Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or shredded leaves, around the plants to help conserve moisture, suppress weed growth, and regulate soil temperature.

How to Care for Rhubarb

To ensure the health and productivity of your rhubarb plants, proper care is essential.

Here are some care tips for rhubarb:

  • Fertilizing: Rhubarb benefits from annual fertilization in early spring. Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 formulation, according to the package instructions. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilizers, as they can promote leaf growth at the expense of stalk production.
  • Watering: Rhubarb requires regular watering, especially during dry periods. Provide deep and thorough watering to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Mulching can help retain moisture and reduce the frequency of watering.
  • Weed control: Keep the area around the rhubarb plants free from weeds, as they can compete for nutrients and water. Regularly remove any weeds that appear near the plants.
  • Thinning: As the rhubarb plants grow, they may become crowded. To maintain healthy growth, thin out the plants every few years by dividing the crowns. This process involves digging up the mature plant, dividing the crown into sections, and replanting them at the recommended spacing.
  • Pest and disease management: Rhubarb is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, some common issues include aphids, slugs, snails, and fungal diseases like leaf spot. Monitor the plants regularly and take appropriate measures, such as using organic insecticides or implementing cultural practices, to manage pests and diseases if necessary.
  • Harvesting: Rhubarb can be harvested starting from the second or third year of growth. Only harvest stalks that are at least 10-12 inches long. To harvest, firmly grasp the stalk near the base and gently pull it away from the plant. Avoid removing all the stalks at once, as it can weaken the plant. Leave a few stalks to support ongoing growth.
  • Winter care: In colder regions, protect rhubarb plants during winter by applying a layer of mulch around the crowns to insulate them from freezing temperatures.

Remember that the leaves of rhubarb plants are toxic and should not be consumed. Focus on harvesting and utilizing the edible stalks for culinary purposes.

By following these planting and care guidelines, you can enjoy a thriving rhubarb crop in your garden.

Rhubarb Pruning and Propagation

Rhubarb is a versatile and delicious plant that can be grown in your own garden.

Whether you want to maintain the health of your existing rhubarb plants or propagate new ones, pruning and propagation are essential gardening techniques to master.

Pruning helps promote plant growth and rejuvenation, while propagation allows you to expand your rhubarb collection.

Here, we will explore how to prune rhubarb and how to propagate it, providing you with the knowledge and skills to care for and propagate this tangy and tart vegetable.

How to Prune Rhubarb

Pruning rhubarb is a relatively straightforward process that helps keep the plant healthy and productive. Here are the steps to prune rhubarb:

  1. Timing: Pruning is typically done in late autumn after the plant has entered its winter dormancy or in early spring as new growth starts to emerge.
  2. Cutting Back: Use sharp secateurs or a gardening knife to fully cut back the spent foliage and stems to the base of the plant. This allows the plant to focus its energy on new growth.
  3. Preventing Flowering: Remove any flowering stems to prevent the rhubarb from going to seed. This helps maintain the plant’s vitality and encourages the production of edible stalks.
  4. Disposing of Leaves: Contrary to common misconceptions, it is safe to compost rhubarb leaves. However, exercise caution while handling the delicate buds to prevent breakage.

How to Propagate Rhubarb

Propagating rhubarb allows you to expand your rhubarb collection and share plants with others.

There are several methods of propagating rhubarb, including division of crowns and root cuttings.

Here’s how to propagate rhubarb:

  1. Division of Crowns: Select healthy, mature rhubarb plants for division. In early spring or late autumn, dig up the rhubarb crowns and roots, being careful not to damage the crown. Divide the roots into 4 to 8 pieces, ensuring that each division has a 2-inch cross section of storage root with a large bud or “eye.” Replant the divisions in well-prepared soil, spacing them 3 to 4 feet apart.
  2. Root Cuttings: Another method of propagation is through root cuttings. Take 4 to 6-inch sections of rhubarb roots and plant them horizontally in well-prepared soil, with the bud or “eye” facing upwards. Cover the cuttings with 2 inches of soil and water thoroughly. As the cuttings develop roots and shoots, transplant them to their final growing location.
  3. Maintenance: Provide regular watering and monitor the newly propagated rhubarb plants for signs of growth. Keep the soil evenly moist and apply a layer of mulch around the plants to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

Remember, rhubarb is a hardy perennial that thrives in full sun to partial shade and well-draining, loamy soil.

By following proper pruning techniques and utilizing propagation methods, you can enjoy a thriving rhubarb garden and a bountiful harvest of this tangy vegetable.

Rhubarb Pests and Diseases

Rhubarb is a delightful plant to grow, offering tangy and tart flavors that are perfect for a variety of culinary creations.

However, like any garden plant, rhubarb is susceptible to pests and diseases that can hinder its growth and productivity.

Now, we will explore the common pests and diseases that can affect rhubarb and provide solutions for controlling and preventing them.

Common Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases can pose challenges to the health of rhubarb plants. Here are some of the most common ones you may encounter.

Pests

These are just a few examples of pests that can affect rhubarb plants:

  • Slugs and Snails: These slimy creatures are notorious for feeding on rhubarb plants. To control them, consider using various methods such as creating barriers, using beer traps, or applying organic slug pellets.
  • Aphids: Aphids are tiny insects that can infest rhubarb leaves, causing damage to the plant. To get rid of them, you can try spraying a mixture of soapy water or using insecticidal soap.
  • Curculio Beetles: Curculio beetles may attack rhubarb plants, but they can be controlled by using insecticidal soap or pesticides recommended for beetle control.
  • Flea Beetles: These small jumping beetles can damage rhubarb leaves by creating tiny holes. Combat flea beetles by applying diatomaceous earth or using pesticides specifically formulated for flea beetle control.
  • Stem Borers: Stem borers are insects that bore into rhubarb stems, causing damage. You can deter stem borers by applying diatomaceous earth, neem oil, or insecticidal soap.
  • Caterpillars: Caterpillars, such as the rhubarb curculio, can feed on rhubarb leaves. Handpicking or using organic insecticides can help control caterpillar infestations.

It’s essential to monitor your plants regularly and take appropriate measures to control and prevent pest infestations.

Diseases

In addition to pests, rhubarb can also be susceptible to certain diseases.

Some common rhubarb diseases include:

  • Crown Rot: Crown rot is a fungal disease that affects the crown of the rhubarb plant, causing it to rot and eventually die. To prevent crown rot, ensure good drainage and avoid planting in waterlogged soil.
  • Leaf Spots: Leaf spots are caused by various fungal pathogens and appear as circular or angular spots on the leaves. To manage leaf spots, practice good sanitation by removing infected leaves and maintaining good airflow around the plants.
  • Anthracnose: Anthracnose is a fungal disease that can affect rhubarb, causing leaf, stem, and crown rot. Proper sanitation, including removing infected plant debris, can help control anthracnose.
  • Phytophthora Crown Rot: This disease is caused by a soilborne pathogen and can lead to crown and root rot in rhubarb plants. Avoid overwatering and ensure good drainage to prevent phytophthora crown rot.

By being vigilant and taking appropriate preventive measures, you can minimize the impact of pests and diseases on your rhubarb plants.

Regularly inspect your plants, practice good garden hygiene, and consider using organic and sustainable pest control methods to maintain the health and productivity of your rhubarb.

Remember, gardening is a dynamic process, and each gardening experience is unique.

Stay observant, adapt your strategies as needed, and enjoy the journey of nurturing your rhubarb plants to their full potential!

Buying Rhubarb Seeds

If you’re looking to start growing your own rhubarb, buying high-quality seeds is the first step to success.

Rhubarb seeds can be purchased from various sources, both online and offline.

Here, we’ll provide advice on buying rhubarb seeds and share some trusted online platforms where you can find a wide selection of rhubarb seeds.

Advice On Buying Rhubarb Seeds

When purchasing rhubarb seeds, there are a few factors to consider to ensure you get the best quality seeds for your garden.

Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision:

  • Variety Selection: Rhubarb comes in different varieties, each with its own unique characteristics. Consider your preferences and specific growing conditions to choose the variety that suits your needs. Popular varieties include Victoria, Valentine, and Cherry Red.
  • Seed Quality: Look for reputable seed suppliers that provide high-quality seeds. Opt for fresh seeds with a good germination rate to maximize your chances of success. Reading customer reviews and ratings can also give you insights into the quality and performance of the seeds.
  • Organic and Non-GMO Options: If you prefer organic or non-genetically modified (non-GMO) seeds, ensure that the seeds you purchase are certified as such. Many seed suppliers offer organic and non-GMO options, allowing you to align your gardening practices with your values.
  • Quantity and Price: Consider the quantity of seeds you require based on the size of your garden and your planting goals. Some suppliers offer seeds in small packets, while others offer bulk quantities. Compare prices to find a supplier that offers competitive pricing for the quantity you need.

Where to Buy Rhubarb Seeds Online

Finding a reliable online source for rhubarb seeds can save you time and provide access to a wide range of varieties.

Here are some reputable online platforms where you can purchase rhubarb seeds:

  • Johnny’s Selected Seeds (johnnyseeds.com): Johnny’s Selected Seeds offers heirloom rhubarb seeds and plants. Their website provides a user-friendly shopping experience and detailed product information to help you make an informed choice.
  • Amazon (amazon.com): Amazon offers a diverse selection of rhubarb seeds from various sellers. Make sure to check customer reviews and ratings to ensure the quality of the seeds and the reliability of the sellers.
  • Burpee (burpee.com): Burpee is a well-known supplier of vegetable seeds, including rhubarb. Their website offers a range of rhubarb varieties, along with detailed descriptions and growing information.
  • Sow Right Seeds (sowrightseeds.com): Sow Right Seeds specializes in providing high-quality vegetable seeds, including rhubarb. Their website offers a user-friendly shopping experience and provides valuable growing tips for beginners.
  • West Coast Seeds (westcoastseeds.com): West Coast Seeds offers rhubarb seeds and provides detailed information on the cultivation and care of rhubarb plants. Their website is a valuable resource for both novice and experienced gardeners.
  • Happy Valley Seeds (happyvalleyseeds.com.au): Happy Valley Seeds offers a range of rhubarb seeds suitable for growing in different climates. Their website provides detailed product descriptions and growing tips.
  • Kitazawa Seed Company (kitazawaseed.com): Kitazawa Seed Company offers Victoria Rhubarb seeds, known for their mild tartness and sweetness. Their website provides detailed product information and offers organic and non-GMO options.

When purchasing rhubarb seeds online, ensure that the supplier has a secure website and offers reliable shipping options to your location.

It’s also helpful to read customer reviews and ratings to gauge the quality of the seeds and the overall shopping experience.

By following these guidelines and exploring reputable online platforms, you can find the perfect rhubarb seeds to start your gardening journey.

Buying Rhubarb Plants

If you’re interested in growing rhubarb in your garden, buying healthy and well-established plants is essential.

Rhubarb plants are perennial vegetables that produce stalks year after year, providing a steady supply of this tangy and versatile crop.

Here, we’ll provide advice on buying rhubarb plants and share some reputable online sources where you can find a variety of rhubarb plants for sale.

Advice On Buying Rhubarb Plants

Before purchasing rhubarb plants, consider the following tips to ensure successful growth and a bountiful harvest:

  • Choose a Suitable Variety: Rhubarb comes in different varieties, each with its own flavor, color, and harvest time. Consider your preferences and growing conditions to select the variety that suits your needs. Popular varieties include Victoria, Valentine, and Cherry Red.
  • Consider Your Growing Zone: Rhubarb plants have specific temperature requirements and thrive in certain zones. Check your grow zone to ensure the variety you choose is suitable for your climate. This information is crucial for the plant’s growth and survival.
  • Plant Health and Quality: Look for rhubarb plants that appear healthy and vigorous. Check for signs of disease or pests, such as discolored leaves or damaged stems. Choose plants with well-developed root systems, as they are more likely to establish quickly in your garden.

Where to Buy Rhubarb Plants Online

Finding reliable online sources for purchasing rhubarb plants can offer convenience and access to a wide range of varieties.

Here are some reputable platforms where you can find rhubarb plants for sale:

  • Gurney’s (gurneys.com): Gurney’s offers a selection of rhubarb plants for sale, allowing you to choose from various varieties that suit your preferences and growing conditions. Their website provides detailed information on each variety, including flavor, color, and harvest time.
  • Amazon (amazon.com): Amazon offers a range of rhubarb plants from different sellers. Ensure you read customer reviews and ratings to gauge the quality and health of the plants. Look for plants with positive feedback and high ratings to increase your chances of success.
  • Nature Hills Nursery (naturehills.com): Nature Hills Nursery provides live rhubarb plants for sale. Their website offers information on each variety’s growing requirements and characteristics, helping you make an informed decision.
  • Indiana Berry (indianaberry.com): Indiana Berry offers rhubarb plants for online purchase. Their website provides information on shipping dates and planting guidelines to ensure successful establishment in your garden.
  • Stark Bro’s (starkbros.com): Stark Bro’s offers rhubarb plants for sale, including a variety of cultivars suitable for different growing conditions. Their website provides a buyer’s guide with helpful information on rhubarb cultivation.
  • Marshall’s Garden (marshallsgarden.com): Marshall’s Garden supplies hand-selected rhubarb crowns that are raised in Norfolk. Their website offers rhubarb plants suitable for both beginners and experienced gardeners.
  • Burgess Seed and Plant Co. (eburgess.com): Burgess Seed and Plant Co. provides rhubarb plants for sale, ensuring a tart and flavorful addition to your garden. Their website offers planting guidelines and helpful tips for successful rhubarb cultivation.

When purchasing rhubarb plants online, ensure that the supplier has a secure website and reliable shipping options to your location.

It’s also helpful to read customer reviews and ratings to gauge the overall quality of the plants and the shopping experience.

By following these guidelines and exploring reputable online platforms, you can find healthy and thriving rhubarb plants to kickstart your gardening journey.

Rhubarb Varieties

Rhubarb, a popular spring vegetable with edible stalks, comes in a variety of colors and flavors.

The color of rhubarb stalks, whether deep red, green, pink, or speckled, has little to do with its flavor. Contrary to common belief, the redness does not necessarily indicate sweetness.

There are numerous rhubarb varieties to choose from, each offering its own unique characteristics and culinary uses.

Rhubarb Varieties to Grow

Whether you prefer red-stalked varieties or opt for the sweeter and more productive green-stalked types, there’s a rhubarb variety to suit your taste and gardening needs.

Here are some notable rhubarb varieties:

  • Holstein Bloodred: A vigorous plant that produces juicy, deep red stalks, perfect for classic red rhubarb enthusiasts.
  • McDonald’s Canadian Red: A deep red variety suitable for canning, freezing, or making rhubarb pies.
  • Canada Red: Cherry-red rhubarb with a sweet, juicy flavor.
  • Colorado Red: Exceptionally red inside and out, this variety stands out with its vibrant color.
  • Victoria: A green-stalked variety known for its sweetness and productivity.
  • Giant Victoria: Similar to the Victoria variety but with even larger stalks.
  • Livingstone: A vigorous variety that produces thick, red stalks with a tart flavor.
  • Strawberry: Features pink and green speckled stalks and a pleasant strawberry-like taste.
  • Sutton’s: A popular green-stalked variety that is known for its tenderness and productivity.
  • German Wine: A green-stalked variety with a mild flavor, often used for making wine.
  • Valentine: This variety produces bright red stalks and has a good balance of sweetness and tartness.
  • Cawood Delight: A green-stalked variety that offers excellent flavor and productivity.
  • Timperley Early: A vigorous variety with pinkish-green stalks and a tangy flavor, perfect for early harvest.

These are just a few examples of the many rhubarb varieties available to gardeners.

Each variety has its own characteristics, including stalk color, flavor profile, productivity, and suitability for specific culinary uses.

Whether you’re a fan of the classic red rhubarb or interested in exploring the sweeter and more productive green-stalked varieties, there’s a rhubarb variety to suit your preferences and gardening conditions.

Remember to select a variety that is well-suited to your climate and growing conditions.

Rhubarb generally thrives in well-draining, fertile soil that is rich in organic matter. Consistent moisture is important, but avoid overwatering to prevent root rot.

Proper spacing between plants, typically 3-4 feet apart, allows them to spread out and grow effectively.

Whether you choose to grow rhubarb as a perennial in cooler regions or as a winter annual in southern areas, you can enjoy its delicious stalks and the versatility it brings to your culinary creations.

FAQs

What is rhubarb?

Rhubarb is a cool-season, hardy, perennial vegetable grown for its leafstalks that have a unique tangy taste used for pies and sauces. Rhubarb was first cultivated in the Far East more than 2,000 years ago. It was initially grown for medicinal purposes, but was grown for culinary use in Britain and America in the 18th century.

When is the best time to plant rhubarb?

The best time to plant rhubarb is in the spring or fall. Planting in the spring allows the roots to establish before the heat of summer, while planting in the fall gives the plants time to establish before winter.

What kind of soil does rhubarb prefer?

Rhubarb prefers well-draining, fertile, loamy, and well-drained soil that has good organic matter content. Careful soil preparation will help rhubarb stay healthy and productive for many years. The planting area should be cleared of any weeds, especially tough, hard-to-control perennial weeds.

How much sunlight does rhubarb need?

Rhubarb prefers full sun to grow and thrive. It needs at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. In hot climates, it may benefit from some afternoon shade to protect it from scorching.

How often should I water rhubarb?

Rhubarb prefers moist soil but should not be waterlogged. Water deeply and thoroughly when the top inch of soil feels dry. Mulching around the base of the plants can help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.

Does rhubarb require fertilization?

Rhubarb benefits from regular fertilization. Use a slow-release, balanced fertilizer formulated for vegetables in the spring. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can lead to excessive foliage growth and fewer stalks. Follow the package instructions for application rates.

How do I care for rhubarb during the growing season?

During the growing season, continue to water the plants regularly and maintain moist soil. Mulch around the base of the plants to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Remove any flower stalks that appear, as they can reduce the plant’s vigor. Once the foliage starts to yellow and die back, it can be cut down to the ground.

Are there any common problems or pests with rhubarb?

Rhubarb can be susceptible to pests such as aphids, slugs, and snails. They can also be affected by diseases like crown rot and powdery mildew. Regular inspection and early intervention can help prevent and manage these issues.

Can I grow rhubarb in containers?

Yes, rhubarb can be grown in containers. Choose a large container with good drainage and use a well-draining potting mix formulated for vegetables. Place the container in a location with full sun and water regularly to keep the soil moist.

What are some culinary uses for rhubarb?

Rhubarb is commonly used in pies, jams, jellies, and sauces. It can also be used in breads, cakes, and drinks. Rhubarb is a versatile ingredient that can add a tangy flavor to many dishes.

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources that provide useful information on how to grow and care for rhubarb:

We hope that these resources provide you with valuable guidance and tips for successfully growing and caring for rhubarb.

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