Guys, let’s talk about growing rhubarb! Rhubarb is delicious, nutritious, and easy to grow – even in a small space. This article tells you how to plant, care for, and harvest your own rhubarb.
As a perennial, once planted – and provided its (modest) needs are met – it will reward you by growing bigger and stronger each year, producing ever more succulent stems for you to eat.
However, when growing rhubarb, it needs an annual cold period to break its dormancy and may not do well in areas that cannot provide this.
I live in Canada, so my rhubarb plant has ample cold periods to bring it out of it’s dormancy in the spring. Places that don’t get very cold, like Florida, might have some problems growing rhubarb.
Where can I buy Rhubarb Plants to Grow?
Most plant nurseries carry rhubarb sets. Also, I’ve even seen them being sold at local grocery stores (in the spring), and walmart’s planting section.
Also, if you know of anyone who has a large plant, they can take a division of the root stock and you can plant that as well.
Planting Rhubarb to grow in your backyard
When growing rhubarb, the easiest way to start is with a rootstock section, or “set.” Each set must have at least one growing tip, or “crown,” and preferably more.
Alternatively, rhubarb seeds are available, but these do not always come “true” – they may produce plants of a different type from the parent cultivar. They should be planted in small containers to grow as starts in February and then planted out in May.
The lighting conditions are pretty easy with growing rhubarb. They prefer a nice direct sunlight type of spot, but they will tolerate some shade as well. The plant you see in the pics gets about 5-6 hours of direct sun a day (morning sun), and then is in shade for the rest of the day.
Select an open site with moist, free-draining soil; avoid frost pockets and waterlogged sites. Plant each set at least 30-36 in. apart; rows should be 12 inches apart.
Growing rhubarb in very large pots or other containers on a terrace or patio is possible. Beautiful to look at, its large glossy leaves held gracefully above thick red, pink, or green stems, rhubarb can be very ornamental.
However, container-grown plants must be fed and watered meticulously as containerized compost dries out very quickly, and the store of nutrients is limited.
Unless the containers are huge, place only one plant in each if you’re growing in pots.
Caring for the Rhubarb You Grow
Whether planting in the ground or in a container, be sure to incorporate plenty of organic matter (well-rotted or blended manure, all-purpose compost, or garden compost will do) into the soil to feed the plants and retain moisture.
Plant with the crowns just showing above the soil and mulch with more organic matter, without burying the crowns.
Keep the soil weed-free and moist, applying a 10-10-10 fertilizer to promote growth in the spring will help. Remove yellowing leaves to prevent adjacent plants from smothering one another.
“Forcing” Rhubarb when you grow it
Rhubarb can be “forced” for early harvest, producing tender stems a few weeks earlier than normal.
In midwinter, when the plants’ dormancy has been broken after a cold spell, cover them with ornamental forcing jars (or upturned boxes, buckets, or large flowerpots) and leave in place until the stems are as tall as the covers before harvesting them. Do not harvest from forced plants later in the season; instead, allow them to replenish their energy reserves for the following year.
Harvesting Rhubarb You Grow
Rhubarb can be harvested throughout spring and summer when the stems are at least 9-12 in. long. The longer the stalks grow, the thicker they will get. Some people prefer to pick them when they are thinner, but I dont mind picking them with they are thick because I’m usually cooking them so they break down and get saucy.
Remove stems cleanly by inserting your thumb between the stem you are harvesting and its younger neighbor in the plant’s center and pull firmly between thumb and forefinger.
Leaves are poisonous and should be discarded. It is safe to put rhubarb leaves on the compost heap. While the oxalic acid is poisonous to humans, it won’t hurt the compost pile’s microbial organisms.
As excited as you are to harvest rhubarb during the first year it’s growing, you can really injur the plant and prevent it from growing strong enough roots to carry itself over winter. Try to wait at least two years to harvest.
Once the plant is well established and ready to go, remove only a third to a half of the stems each time, to allow the plant to continue growing. Try and stop harvesting around the end of August to September to allow plants to recover before winter.
Growing Rhubarb is Easy!
By following a few simple guidelines, you can grow rhubarb easily, even in a confined space.
Can I freeze Rhubarb?
Absolutely! Wash and slice the stalks. Place them into a heavy-duty freezer container/bag and label the date.
If the freezer bag is sturdy, and you’ve removed as much air from inside the bag as possible, the rhubarb should last very well for up to 4-6 months.
These are the freezer bags I use:
Need Rhubarb Recipes?
You can make all sorts of things out of rhubarb! (Both sweet and savory!).
- Rhubarb pie
- Rhubarb crisp
- Rhubarb bars
- Rhubarb sauce for sweet toppings
- Savory Rhubarb sauce for toppings like pork and chicken!
I hope this information has helped you in feeling confident that you can grow your own Rhubarb! Seriously, once you get it going, it comes back year after year and the plant gets bigger and bigger!
Thanks so much for stopping by The Salty Pot today, and if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Happy growing – and happy eating!