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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 5°C and 20°C. (Show °F/in)
  • Space plants: 90 cm 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

18 Feb 16, Relda (New Zealand - temperate climate)
We planted a rhubarb plant at the beginning of last year which has been growing well. I have been watering each day over these hot summer days. I have used sheep pellets and we have been eating it lately. However, the plant is healthy looking but as the leaves grow something seems to be eating them and making them like a lace cloth. It's awful. I cannot see anything under the leaves. I have seen a couple of ants running around. I have snail and slug bait out - not seen any. What is ruining the look of my lovely rhubarb plant. Please help.
25 Apr 16, Raewyn McConnell (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
This damage could be done by earwigs. Layer some damp newspapers nearby. Earwigs love to live between the layers. Paper can then be disposed of earwigs and all.
10 Dec 13, Gabrielle (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
I have a rhubarb plant that has grown lots of very large stalks with huge leaves. The stalks are red at the base but quite green for most of their length. How do I know when they are ready to harvest?
24 Mar 14, Colleen (New Zealand - temperate climate)
Rhubarb is ready to use whenever you feel it is big enough, it does not ripen as other crops.
12 Dec 16, Ken Thackeray (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
Rhubarb seems to come in several varieties, almost all green stemmed to deep red. I have grown both types and as long as the stems are of a decent size they taste much the same when cooked. Delicious ! Just don't eat it too often, as rhubarb is very high in Oxalic Acid and can be toxic in large doses.
23 Jun 13, Jill Selwood (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
My rhubarb has very large leaves and very short stems. How do I get it growing the other way round?
08 Sep 13, Colleen S. Johnson (New Zealand - temperate climate)
You don't. Rhubarb can vary greatly from the parent plant if grown from seed. Best to get a division from a plant with the characteristics you want.
16 Dec 12, Bridget Baynham (New Zealand - temperate climate)
Can rhubarb be grown in a large pot?
08 Sep 13, Colleen S. Johnson (New Zealand - temperate climate)
It will grow well in a large pot. Remember it is a gross feeder and likes plenty of fertiliser.
05 Oct 11, linda (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
I have a rhubarb plant that is a year old and I see it has stalks that look like they have seeded. Do I just cut these out and will the plants keep doing this. This is my first go with rhubarb. Thanks Linda
Showing 1 - 10 of 11 comments

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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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