How to Plant and Grow Rhubarb

Rhubarb, a cool-season fruit-like vegetable, is known for its bright, sturdy stalks and tart taste. It usually emerges from the ground in late April and March. Only the stalks of rhubarb can be eaten, as the leaves of this plant contain toxic oxalic acid.

Rhubarb has a unique flavor and is well-known for its medicinal benefits. It is rich in Vitamin C and calcium and can be used in pies, jams, and other baked goods. This guide will show you how to plant and cultivate rhubarb so that you can enjoy this perennial favorite for many years.

Ideal Soil Composition and pH for Growing Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a heavy eater of soil nutrients and will thrive in well-draining, nutrient-rich soil with lots of organic matter. It can survive in many different soil types, but if your soil needs to be amended, try mixing in a few inches of well-decomposed compost or organic material. To regulate moisture and temperature, place mulch around your plants in addition to your compost. Amend and test your soil as needed.

Perfect Rhubarb Growing Conditions

Regions with winter temperatures below 40°F and summer temperatures above 75°F are ideal for growing rhubarb. Rhubarb plants also thrive in full sun and partial shade.

How to Plant and Grow Rhubarb

Rhubarb can be planted early in the fall or early to mid-spring. Rhubarb can be self-sufficient once established and will continue to produce for many years. You should choose a place where the plant can flourish and spread unassisted. It is best to place the plant in a corner of a garden.

When to Plant Rhubarb

  • You can plant rhubarb crowns when the ground is firm and the plant’s roots are still dormant.
  • Plant rhubarb crowns in the fall after the plant has entered dormancy.

How to Plant Rhubarb

  • Loosen the soil.
  • Incorporate well-decomposed compost.
  • Cover the rhubarb crowns with two inches of soil.
  • Plant crowns or plants four to six feet apart to ensure they have enough space to grow.


How to Water Rhubarb

Rhubarb needs plenty of water to grow. Nature usually supplies the plants with water from spring showers and melting snow in early spring. However, as the growing season gets hotter, rhubarb plants must be watered more frequently. It is important to water the plant before it enters winter dormancy so it will grow in the spring.


It is undisputed that rhubarb is an excellent source of nutrients. Rhubarb plants have enormous leaves and use the summer months to boost their rhizomes to ensure they harvest in subsequent years. Rhubarb plants can grow large, billowing leaves when they are adequately fed.

  • There is no need to fertilize rhubarb in its first year. In fact, the direct application of nitrates could cause the death of the roots.
  • Fertilization should only be done when the ground is at least partially frozen.
  • Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer to the soil after the last frost has passed, or side-dress the plant using well-decomposed organic matter and compost. This will nourish the soil rather than directly targeting plant roots.

Growing Common Rhubarb

Rhubarb requires very little maintenance. The plant can be left alone in the garden without much exposure to disease or pests. Crown rot and root rot are the most severe problems for rhubarb plants, but both can be easily fixed.

Rhubarb plants can be protected from root and crown rot by using well-draining soil. If the crown and rhizomes of Rhubarb plants get too wet, they will begin to rot.

When to Prune Rhubarb

Tall flower stalks from rhubarb plants can be a problem. They aren’t good for next year’s yields or flavor, which can affect their usability. The flowers take the plants’ energy, leading to lower yields in the following years. These tall stalks of rhubarb flowers can be found in the middle of your plant and should be removed as soon as possible.

How to Harvest Rhubarb

  • Before harvesting stalks, let the rhubarb plants get established. Avoid harvesting stalks in the first year.
  • You should look for stalks at least 12-18 inches in length. Stamen should be strong and thick when harvested.
  • Take the stalks out of the plant’s base.
  • Discard the leaves from the stalk of the plant.
  • At harvest time, don’t cut off all the stalks of your rhubarb plants. The plant must have at least two to three leaves to provide food reserves for next year’s harvest. This will ensure that your rhubarb plants last for many more years.
  • Remove any plant debris that has fallen off the plant at the end of its growing season, and add it to your compost pile.
  • After the first hard freeze, add a layer of compost and organic mulch. This will provide the plant with sufficient nutrients for next year’s growth.

Choose the Best Rhubarb Varieties to Grow

If you plan to grow rhubarb this year, it is a good idea to experiment with different varieties. These are our top picks:

  • ‘Cherry Red Rhubarb’ is one of the sweetest rhubarb types with tender and long stalks.
  • Riverside Giant Rhubarb’ is a large, cold-hardy shrub that produces reddish-colored stalks. However, it takes a while for the stalks to become harvestable.
  • ‘Prince Albert’ is a highly prized heirloom variety in gardens. They have red tart stalks that can be harvested from the plant in May and April.

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