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How to Grow Rhubarb

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Rhubarb is considered by many to be an "Old Fashioned" vegetable, found in Grandma or even great-grandma's vegetable garden. But Grandma had a secret... this perennial vegetable will thrive for years, and is almost maintenance free. So why not put a few plants in your garden, and see why grandma was so fond of her Rhubarb.

Important: Rhubarb leaves are poisonous. Cut the stalk at the base of the leaf and discard the leaves.


  • There are two types of Rhubarb. The most common has a reddish stalk, while the second has a white stalk with light pinkish coloring and streaking. Their taste is the same. We suggest you grow a few of each for color.

Did You Know? Rhubarb is one of just two perennial vegetables, that lives for several years. The other is Asparagus.

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Sowing Rhubarb Seeds:

While seeds can be planted, rhubarb plants are most often propagated by separating the  roots, or crowns. A piece of root with at least one bud is planted with the rhubarb crown just at soil level. Plant roots and crowns directly outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked. Rhubarb is hardy, and will survive late spring frosts. If there is a really hard freeze, the leaves and stalk could be damaged, but new ones will soon replace any that are damaged.

Space Rhubarb roots two to three feet apart. They will spread. Rhubarb tolerates a little crowding, but the stalks and leaves will grow bigger and healthier, if you allow them a little space.

A few plants is all you will need for a home garden. If you are planting large quantities, space rows three feet apart.

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Days to Maturity:

Rhubarb can be picked in the spring as soon as the stalks are large enough to harvest in sufficient quantity for the recipe you are planning to use. Newly planted Rhubarb will be ready to harvest the following year.

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How to Grow Rhubarb Plants:

Plant Rhubarb in full sun, in a location where they will not be disturbed for years. Plants will tolerate a little partial shade.

Being easy to grow, Rhubarb will thrive in most garden soils. For the best crop, add But, it will reward you when compost and manure, or fertilizers. Use a general purpose fertilizer, or a high nitrogen mixture, for well established plants, to promote leaf and stalk growth.

Make sure ample water is in the soil during the harvest period. After harvest, don't forget to provide water, to keep your plants healthy all year long. As a rule of thumb, when watering the rest of your garden, water your rhubarb plants, too.

Mulch thickly around plants to keep weeds down, and to help retain soil moisture.

Healthy Rhubarb plants will grow and spread. Separate or thin the plants every five years, or sooner if the plants become crowded.

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Insects and Pests:

Insect infestations are fairly uncommon. For occasional infestations, use an insecticidal soap or mild insecticide.

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Diseases of Rhubarb:

Rhubarb is long lived, and suffers few diseases. On occasion, fungus and crown rot can occur. Fungus problems are more common in wet and humid weather, if the plants are crowded.

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Harvesting Rhubarb:

You can harvest the Rhubarb regardless of size. When harvesting, grasp a stalk firmly close to the ground. Twist and pull the stalk, and it should break free of the plant. While harvesting, pick the largest stalks first. Don't let them get too big. Rhubarb stalks will remain sweet and flavorful until the warm summer weather begins. Then, the stalks turn bitter.

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Rhubarb is as hardy as vegetables come. They will begin to grow as soon as the ground begins to thaw. No matter hold cold it gets in late spring, the weather will not kill the plant, although in some cases it may damage the first leaves.

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Rhubarb Recipes:

Rhubarb Custard Pie

More of our garden recipes

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More Information:

More on growing Rhubarb


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