Rheum Rhabarbarum or as we all commonly call it, Rhubarb is one of the most versatile plants you will come across. And if you are wondering how to grow rhubard, you came to the right place!
While known as a vegetable, it is often used in a variety of desserts ranging from rhubarb pies, crips with ice cream, cakes, to even jams, donut glaze, and so on.
So if you are setting up a home garden in the backyard, rhubarbs are one of our top picks for both newbies and professionals.
But like with any plant, planting, growing, and caring for rhubarb is different, and in this detailed guide on how to grow rhubarb, we cover it all for you.
How to Grow Rhubarb
The first and foremost thing to decide is the type of Rhubarb you want to grow. There are 5 different varieties of Rhubarb, namely,
If you want quick produce by forcing the rhubarb plant, this is the variety to go with. Keep in mind that when you force it, the stalks remain pink rather than the usual red color we are used to.
The best part about this variety is the large produce it delivers every year. Its stem remains mostly green with a shade of pink and it has a sweet, acidic flavor that works amazingly well in salads.
If you like your rhubarb with red stems and mostly use them for desserts, this is the rhubarb for you as they have a sweet flavor with a bright red stem. They are also quick to grow and will be ready for harvest without forcing it.
Giant Grooveless Crimson
This is another type of rhubarb with bright red stems. It also grows taller than most types and gives an excellent yield every year. Though its acidic flavor means, this one is more suited for savory dishes.
Thomson’s Terrifically Tasty
With this rhubarb, you get an early harvest, and is mostly grown from March to June-July. These have a thick, greenish-pinkish stalk with a robust flavor great for both desserts like pies and savory dishes.
Worried about your rhubarb plant catching diseases? This baby has the strongest resistance than other types. Though growing it can be slightly painstaking as it takes a tad longer. It also has a strong flavor with dark green and red roots.
Fulton’s Strawberry Surprise
If you are all about taste, note that this rhubarb has been awarded the best-tasting rhubarb by the RHS Wisley trials. It is both lip-smacking and attention-catching, sure to make anyone look twice.
Looking for an easy and hassle-free variant? Great for beginners, this one produces juicy stems that grow quickly and thus, can be harvested in the coming year if planted at the right time.
How to Plant Rhubarb: Thing to Keep in Mind
Should I plant rhubarb using seeds or crowns? This is one of the most-asked questions when it comes to planting rhubarbs and our answer remains the same, Crowns are the way to go. You can either borrow these crowns from someone who is already growing rhubarb or purchase it from a nursery.
But before you plant the crown the most important thing is setting up the soil. For that, make sure you remove all the existing weeds and plants growing in it. Also, the pH of the soil should be between 5.5 to 6.5.
Like any plant, even rhubarb needs consistent sunlight for photosynthesis so find it a spot in the home garden that receives a good 5-6hrs of sunlight every day.
The ideal season to plant rhubarbs is Spring or Autumn but you can also do it in Fall if needed. We suggest spring or autumn since the soil is mostly moist and warm which better stimulates growth.
The rhubarb seeds need not be planted too deep. A hole 3-4-inches deep should be enough though make sure you space out the seeds adequately as it becomes quite big.
The minimum recommended distance is 4-5 feet. Place them closer than that and the plants will start competing with each other, in turn, hampering their growth and productivity.
Can I Grow Rhubarb in a Container?
Rhubarb has roots that go deep into the soil and thus, we don’t recommend it but if you do not have a home garden make sure you are using a large container, one that can hold at least 40-50-liters of soil-based compost.
Yes, you’ll be compromising on the yield but some rhubarb is better than no rhubarb, right? Though don’t forget to water the container regularly and add manure.
If the soil isn’t ready yet, you can also plant the rhubarb indoors in pots and move them to your garden once they sprout (about 2-inches tall). The pot should be about 4-inches and plant the seed 1-inch deep.
When you are moving them to the garden, don’t put them into a sunny location straightaway. You’d want to start with slight shade though make sure the soil is moist but not soaking wet.
Move them to a place with good sunlight once they are 4-5 inches tall and have grown around 5 leaves each.
Irrespective of how you plant, one thing you cannot compromise on is mulch but only do it after the soil freezes. Add between 2-5 inches of mulch, we recommend you go with well-rotted compost since it is rich in nitrogen.
And in case you didn’t already know, nitrogen is an important part of Chlorophyll and also helps the plant create amino acids for protein (it isn’t just you who needs protein to bulk up).
How to Care for Rhubarb
The best thing about rhubarb is that it needs little attention and if you do it right, this plant will give you an excellent yield for 8-10 years.
Sounds exciting, right? So here’s how to take care of it.
Tip 1: Firstly, do not cheap out on mulch. Mulch helps the soil retain important nutrients and moisture while keeping weeds at bay playing one of the most roles in gardening. For mulching, go with a thick layer of straw, or well-rotted compost.
Tip 2: Rhubarb requires water but only enough to keep the soil moist. Water the plant every day but make sure you turn off the hose once done and do not leave standing water as it can start rotting of the crown.
Tip 3: Keep an eye out for any weeds growing around the rhubarb. Doing so will ensure your plant does not fall prey to insects.
Tip 4: During fall or spring, the rhubarb plant is going to be dormant. Make sure you dig in and separate the roots. This is important if your plant is older than 2-3 years and should be done every 3 years. This will help the roots absorb the nutrients better.
Tip 5: Rhubarb has strong immunity and hence can resist most diseases other plants are susceptible to but isn’t immortal and prone to diseases known as crown rot. This is a fungal infection that hinders the growth of the crown and occurs if the plant sits in the water for too long.
To avoid this only water the base and make sure the soil is damp and not soaking wet when you plant the seeds or the saplings. The best time to water the plant would be early in the morning but the evening should work just fine.
Excessive water also causes Leaf Rot. Overcrowding which hampers air circulation is another reason for it. To avoid this, simply cut off the infected leaves using shears or pluck it with hand but make sure you disinfect them so the infection doesn’t spread to other plants.
Another to keep away from your plant is the Rhubarb Curculio. This is a reddish beetle that also preys on sunflower and thistle. The best way to keep them away is handpicking them but if catching a bee isn’t your thing then consider spraying Diatomaceous Earth
Tip 6: Once the plant survives its first spring frost and the soil is thawing remember to add in some nitrogen-rich fertilizers as they will get absorbed into the soil quickly without harming the roots.
How to Harvest Rhubarb
The one thing you want to avoid with rhubarb plants is harvesting it in the first year. These plants need time to mature so sit tight and wait for a few more months. While you’ll have to wait for the first couple of years, after the 3rd year, rhubarb can be harvested every 7-10 weeks.
Before you harvest, ensure that the stalks are 13-18 inches long. If it does not reach that length or is thinner than usual, then avoid harvesting since the plant isn’t getting ample nutrients.
Now, there are two ways you can go about harvesting. Number one, use brute strength by pulling the stalks sideways with a slight twist. Don’t worry, if you haven’t the gym, it should come out easily.
But if not, grab a knife and go chop, chop.
Once you have the stalks, the first thing you need to do is get rid of the leaves and throw them into a compost bin (but only if they are not infected).
Also, make sure you leave a minimum of 2 stalks in every plant so you get fresh rhubarb every year (these babies can last you 10+ years if maintained well).
These stalks can be stored in the fridge for about 1-2 weeks by wrapping it in plastic. If you want them to last longer, you can place them in a container with water to keep them hydrated.
In case the stem dies after harvest all you have to do is get rid of the debris and add some well-rotten compost after the soil is frozen. This nitrogen boost is just what the plant needs to ensure a great yield in the coming spring season.
Can I Force Rhubarb?
If you lack patience and want an early harvest then yes, you can force rhubarb. Most gardeners tend to use clay or terracotta pots for forcing the rhubarb plant but if not, dustbins and bigger buckets should work just fine.
Once you have the bucket or pot, add some straw around the crown and cover the plant with the bucket. This will eliminate the light and you will have your rhubarb ready for a yield in just 8-9 weeks.
But only do this in the 3rd year of the plant as it degrades the health of the plant. The best way to tackle this is to plant 5-6 rhubarb plants and force only one plant each year.
For any beginner, growing plants can be a daunting task and that’s why we recommend rhubarbs. They require little care, can be grown in pretty much all weather conditions, and are useful in pretty much every way.
And this detailed guide, we have answered every question there is on how to grow rhubarb. If you still have more questions or think we have missed out on some important details, send them in via the contact form.