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Growing Rhubarb

Jan F M A M J J A S O N Dec
                    P P

(Best months for growing Rhubarb in New Zealand - cool/mountain regions)

P = Plant in the garden.

  • Easy to grow. Plant pieces of rhizome or roots 8 - 10 cm (3 - 4 in.) deep. Best planted at soil temperatures between 41°F and 68°F. (Show °C/cm)
  • Space plants: 35 inches apart
  • Harvest in approximately 1 years. You will have a stronger plant if you leave it for about a year before using..
  • Compatible with (can grow beside): Brassicas (Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, etc)
  • Young rhubarb
    Young rhubarb

Rhubarb is easy to grow in cool climates and is a perennial. Rhubarb can be left in the ground and will return a crop for many years, at least 10 to 15 years (We have one that is more than 20 yrs old). Rhubarb is quite a hardy crop but the crown will rot if in heavy wet clay soils. It can cope with dry periods. Plant in good soil and remove as many weeds as possible. Do not disturb rhubarb roots when cultivating round the plant. Better in cooler climates, but can be grown in shady areas of warm climates. You can lift and divide rhubarb to make more plants . It is best to do this when the plant is dormant ( or at least less actively growing) in winter or late autumn. It is best to wait until a plant is about 5 years old before dividing the crown but it can be moved at any age. Some of the root structure will be damaged when lifting it, so stalk production will not be so good for a few months. If you have mild winters and your rhubarb is still producing new stalks, you can continue to pick it. Although rhubarb is used in desserts and jams, it is considered a vegetable because the stalks are used not the fruit.

NB Do not eat the leaves or roots as they contain oxalic acid which is poisonous. They should not be fed to poultry or stock either.

Remove flower stalks as they appear as the plant will stop producing leaf stalks when flowering.

Rhubarb can be 'forced' by covering dormant crowns with clay pots or a cloche in early spring.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Rhubarb

Pick stems about the thickness of your finger. Large stems will have tough 'strings' down the length of them.
Use in pies, crumbles, fools and jams. Rhubarb goes well with orange.
Will usually need sweetener.

Your comments and tips

23 May 17, Henry Howard (Australia - temperate climate)
I have just planted out two rhubarb plants in new veggie garden.......pretty good soil with small amount of clay. In about four weeks they have developed quickly into sturdy plants, good thick stems and huge leaves. As we are going into winter (Gippsland, Victoria) I want to cut all the stalks back to within a few cms of the roots thus allowing for new stems, hopefully ready to cook, in about three months. Good idea or not?
24 May 17, Sean (Australia - temperate climate)
I live in the Latrobe Valley (Gippsland) and we usually leave the stalks for the winter. If you get severe frosts or a bit of snow you could do what you have suggested and then cover the plants with a good layer of straw or hay for insulation.
17 May 17, +david richardson (Australia - temperate climate)
Hi I have a single small plant which is producing multiple stems but they are very thin and as a result not really usable. the plant is on a balcony which gets sun in the morning, this is melbourne! is there something I can do to create more growth of usable stems? many thanks
17 May 17, Jack (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Rhubarb responds to heavy doses of old manure, blood & bone, etc. It also likes plenty of water which is often a challenge for plants grown in tubs. Your aspect is fine and living in Melbourne is not a handicap! Using good potting mix, not cheap stuff, is a must when growing plants in tubs as they need to get everything out of the amount of soil that is in the tub. If it is not practical to re pot it just make a few holes down beside the roots with a stick and pour some blood & bone down the hole before closing it over. Keep the rhubarb mulched and moist and bury all of your kitchen scraps under the mulch. This will rot down and provide extra nutrients.
06 May 17, Kevin Spencer (Australia - temperate climate)
Rhubarb sold inshops has long stems. Mine has shorter, thicker stems and large leaves. Do growers place boards either side of plants to make the stems grow longer?
07 May 17, Lily Martin (Australia - temperate climate)
I believe they grow rhubarb in very little light which makes the stems long.
07 May 17, Giovanni (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Rhubarb can be very variable. I have seen both short and long stemmed rhubarb in the shops. I have also seen some with mostly green stems and some that are deep red for their full length. As most rhubarb is grown from seed, and there are also a number of different varieties, this variation is inevitable. at a house where we used to live the soil was very rich and we had thick, deep red stems that were about 600 mm (24") long. We shifted to another town with a slightly different climate and soil that still needs improving more and the stems are still a good colour but not as long.
08 May 17, Kevin Spencer (Australia - temperate climate)
Thank you for the comments. I live in an area with heavily leached soils and a deficiency at least in iron. I will try using volcanic rock dust and trace elements and see if that makes any difference.
28 Apr 17, Margaret Jacobs (Australia - temperate climate)
My rhubarb is about 3 years old, but is now producing very thin and short stalks. I have just added manure and compost to the soil, but it doesn't seem to have helped. How can I produce thicker stalks?
01 May 17, Barb (Australia - temperate climate)
Hi Margaret, Is your rhubarb getting enough deep watering? They prefer very deep soil and enough moisture to keep them growing. In my garden I get skinny stalks when my rhubarb is thirsty, and lovely thick stalks when it has adequate water.
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This planting guide is a general reference intended for home gardeners. We recommend that you take into account your local conditions in making planting decisions. GardenGrow is not a farming or commercial advisory service. For specific advice, please contact your local plant suppliers, gardening groups, or agricultural department. The information on this site is presented in good faith, but we take no responsibility as to the accuracy of the information provided.
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