Tony O’Neill, gardener and author of the popular “Composting Masterclass” and “Your First Vegetable Garden,” combines lifelong passion and expert knowledge to simplify the art of gardening. His mission? Helping you cultivate a thriving garden. More on Tony O’Neill
Rhubarb is a perennial plant that produces beautiful green to red-hued stalks. Growing Rhubarb at home can be pretty easy if you follow these guidelines:
Rhubarb requires adequate drainage and sunlight and soil rich in organic matter. Add compost or aged manure to the planting site before planting. Water well in spring as the buds form and feed weekly with a high nitrogen plant food.
In what ways can you start to grow Rhubarb?
To grow Rhubarb, you must first decide whether to grow Rhubarb from seed or crowns. If you are planting Rhubarb for the first time, it’s best to start with rhubarb crowns because they are easier and faster than growing rhubarbs from seed, requiring more patience and care.
However, if you have grown rhubarbs and want even more plants, it is best to plant Rhubarb from seeds because new varieties come out.
What soil is best for growing Rhubarb?
To grow Rhubarb, you need rich soil that drains well. The best rhubarb soil is loamy, which has a lot of moisture and organic matter.
Rhubarb also do well in clay soils. However, the drainage must be amended to ensure it does not get waterlogged and rot.
If you want Rhubarb to grow in your garden, the Rhubarb must have good drainage. You can add grit, small stones, and perlite to create drainage.
Add plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure or homemade compost to the soil. It will increase the organic matter in the ground, feed the microbial life, and hold water and nutrients like a sponge, releasing it to the plant as the soil dries.
Consider reading this article to learn more about making homemade compost at home. It covers everything you need to ensure you get great compost and not a smelly, slimy mess.
Do Rhubarb need sun or shade to grow?
Rhubarb likes to grow in the sun but can also grow in partial shade. Partial shade rhubarb will be smaller than Rhubarb grown under direct sunlight. However, rhubarbs grown in partial shade are more likely to produce a better crop for extended periods.
To grow giant Rhubarb, they need to be planted in full sun. It provides the energy required for the Rhubarb to photosynthesize and grow to enormous sizes.
Where is the best place to plant Rhubarb?
We already know that You can plant Rhubarb in shade or direct sunlight and that they prefer the latter. Where in the garden is best to grow Rhubarb? Is there anywhere they should not be cultivated?
Never plant rhubarbs at the base of tree trunks because rhubarbs, the root system of trees and bushes, require vast amounts of water and can suck the soil dry.
Rhubarb also needs enormous amounts of water, so planting trees and bushes will mean there is not enough moisture, and one plant will suffer. Your Rhubarb will likely be the casualty and perish.
Should You plant Rhubarb on mounded soil?
The rhubarb root system is a rhizome, and even though they use lots of water, they do not want to be waterlogged or have a puddle of water sitting at the base of the plant.
It can cause the plant rhizomes to rot and eventually lead to the death of the plant. Planting Rhubarb on mounded soil is suitable for the plant as it allows the water to drain away from the crown allowing the water to be wicked back into the dry earth by the capillary action.
How to plant out Rhubarb?
Dig the planting hole large enough for the Rhubarb or crown you will be planting. Add some slow-release feed, like a bone meal or Blood meal, and then produce the crown so the buds are just above the soil level.
Water in the crown well and then mulch the crown with well-rotted cow or horse manure. When watering, it will stop soil erosion and feed the plant further as it grows.
Another advantage of mulching the crown is that it helps stabilize the soil temperatures on hot or cold days. It will keep the plant growing consistently.
The video below will give you more information on how I grow Rhubarb to huge sizes. I answer a lot of other questions and give you practical examples.
Can you grow Rhubarb in containers?
Growing Rhubarb in containers is possible, but the rhubarbs must be watered often.
Larger containers will be required due to the final size of the plant. Containers of at least 70 liters or 15 Gallons will be a good start.
Ensure that plenty of grit is added to the growing medium, and remember that they will require feeding weekly and watering each day as containers heat up and dry out much faster than the ground will.
What should I do to my Rhubarb at the start of spring?
At the point of early spring, you will see buds starting to show on your rhubarb crowns.
These are the first signs to tell you now is the time to act. What you do now will depend on whether you grow giant Rhubarb later.
Top up the mulch with another few inches around the crown, slightly covering the buds. It will protect them from late frosts as they start to grow.
Although it rains a lot in spring, it is time to water the rhubarb plants well. Give each plant around 10 to 12 liters of water weekly for adequate growing supplies.
Feed your plants as they start to produce their stems. I will cover this in much more detail later in this post.
What is forcing Rhubarb?
Forcing Rhubarb is a practice that has been done for generations. It allows for earlier harvests and much sweeter-tasting rhubarb stalks.
Gardeners do this on a small scale, but rhubarb farmers will grow in huge sheds for supermarkets.
How to force Rhubarb?
To force Rhubarb, you need to omit all light from the plant. As mentioned above, farmers do this by growing in huge sheds and ensuring no light is allowed in.
Gardeners don’t have this ability as they only force a few plants simultaneously, but a simple chimney pot with a lid will suffice.
Over the years, companies have produced dedicated forcing pots for Rhubarb, and they are fantastic for forcing Rhubarb.
Other items, such as an upturned dustbin or water barrel, can be used if they do not let in light. Avoid opaque cans, as this will still allow the light through.
Does forcing Rhubarb hurt my plants?
Forcing Rhubarb requires enormous amounts of energy from the plant. Rhubarb plants that have been caused should be allowed to recover before moving them again. Best practices would be to force one year out of 4 and let the plant rest for the other three years.
You can weaken and even kill the plant if you continue to force Rhubarb. If you want to force Rhubarb each year, have five plants and alternate them for cause moving along the line, and by the 5th year, you will be back to the first plant.
It will have plenty of time to recover and be forced again safely.
Should you split Rhubarb?
It is good practice to split Rhubarb every four or five years. It will invigorate the plant and provide many more plants to increase your stocks.
How to split Rhubarb?
- Dig out the Rhubarb plant from the ground
- Place two spades back to back and push through the crown
- Keep splitting until you are happy with the size of the new plant
- Ensure that all pieces have a bud on to allow for regrowth
- Replant all sections in a different location following these details.
Should you remove rhubarb flower stems?
Occasionally, your rhubarb plant may throw a flower stem or spike. Unless you have set this particular rhubarb plant for seed, these should be removed immediately as soon as they have been discovered.
Allowing the flower stem to stay uses enormous amounts of energy from the parent crown.
It weakens the plant so much that many do not recover after going to seed and die off over winter.
There is no benefit to keeping the flowering stem on Rhubarb unless you require seed, so ensure to remove it if it’s spotted.
What does a rhubarb seed look like?
Rhubarb seen is very much like large clusters of parsnip seed. The seed itself has tiny wing-like structures in the coating of the seed. It allows the seed to be carried in the wind.
They are initially green when growing, but the green fleshy coat hardens and turns pale brown as they mature.
How much should I water Rhubarb?
As I have already mentioned, Rhubarb uses vast amounts of water. Plants will take 10 to 20 liters or 2.5 to 5 gallons every week when starting to grow.
You can double this to 40 liters a week or 10 gallons when the plant is mature. It is essential to ensure adequate moisture in the soil if you want to grow giant Rhubarb.
What should you feed Rhubarb?
Feeding Rhubarb is relatively easy. These plants will grow with just the manure mulch you added in fall and spring. However, if you want colossal Rhubarb, you must feed it lots.
Blood, fish, and bone meal is a great balanced slow-release food that You can use in the early starts of growing. As the leaves form, you need to up the nitrogen, so adding chicken manure pellets will provide this.
Some people prefer to use soluble feeds. Make your nitrogen feed at home from nettles. Nettle tea is a perfect feed for Rhubarb, containing nutrients and nitrogen.
Feed weekly to start the season, moving on to twice a week during the main growth stage.
What pest or disease do Rhubarb suffer from?
Rhubarb can be prone to Rhizoctonia and rhubarb crown rot. It can also suffer from leaf spots. You can avoid most of these with good husbandry.
Pests can be a significant problem for rhubarb plants, and many of these are found to attack Rhubarb like they attack fruit trees.
The rhubarb leaf miner can cause leaves to turn yellow and die.
The rhubarb curculio is a bug that feeds on rhubarb leaves and stems.
The rhubarb weevil is another pest that will burrow into the rhubarb crown, leaving the plant defenseless against different pests or diseases.
The most significant pest for Rhubarb is the good old slug and snail. Slugs can ravage a plant in days. Slugs love the taste of the leaves, but this plant provides an ideal cool, moist location—everything a slug needs to live.
If you have a slug issue with your Rhubarb, check out this article, where I take you through 6 of the best ways to deal with slugs in your garden.
One of those is the use of nematodes, and it is my favorite way to combat slugs in my growing areas.
What are nematodes?
Nematodes are microscopic creatures that live on our soil. It is said that they are one of, if not the most abundant, life forms on earth. Nematodes will select a host and inject it with bacteria.
This bacteria destroys the host from the inside out. Initially, it prevents them from eating, and eventually, the host succumbs to the bacteria.
How to Harvest Rhubarb
When harvesting Rhubarb, grab the Rhubarb stems at the base and pull while twisting simultaneously.
You will see that the entire stem is pulled from the plant and has a little tag of flesh left. If you see this, you have harvested the stem properly.
It would help if you never cut Rhubarb, as this will allow the base of the stem to remain and rot back into the crown. This rot will spread to the crown and will kill the plant.
How much of the rhubarb plant should you pick?
You should only take one-third of the plant at any time, allowing two-thirds to remain for the rhubarb plant to recover.
Suppose you require more rhubarb plants than other plants. It is possible to take further pickings later in the season.
Towards the end of July, stop picking Rhubarb and allow the plant’s leaves to die naturally.
The crown draws that energy back in and stores it for the next growing season or extends the root system through late fall.
FAQs on Growing HUGE Rhubarb Is Easy With These Action-Packed Tips
Can you put rhubarb leaves in the compost bin?
You can add rhubarb leaves to the compost as any other vegetative material. Shred them into small sections and treated them as a nitrogen source.
What can you use rhubarb leaves for?
Rhubarb leaves can be used for trapping slugs as they provide cool, sheltered spots to hide under. Another use would be to make rhubarb leaf tea as an organic liquid feed for your other plants.
Are big rhubarb plants tough and stringy?
It is a myth that large Rhubarb is tough and stringy. Large stems are as tender as smaller stems. Provided they are grown quickly and with the correct water and nutrition.
Is it ok for Rhubarb to freeze in winter?
Rhubarb requires a period of freezing. It allows the plant to rest, and the freezing also dictates when it will start to grow, as the crown can sense the change in temperature after a freeze.
What do you do to Rhubarb in the fall?
Allow all leaves to die naturally in the fall, but remove them before they rot over the crown. Then lunch the crown with 6 inches of well-rotted farmyard manure.
Conclusion To Growing HUGE Rhubarb
Although Rhubarb will grow on its own if left to its own devices, you can significantly increase the yield and size of the plants if you follow the information I have provided you within this article.
It isn’t hard work but it pays off when you get it right. If you found value in this article, why not subscribe to the blog for all future updates? You can do that below.