Rhubarb is pretty easy and will reward you with many years of succulent stalks for 10 years or more. It’s a plant that looks beautiful in the garden with its huge leaves and bright red stems, an impressive looking crop for a first time grower! We stock 3 of our favourite varieties which can be easily ordered below:
Rhubarb Mix Pack
So, let’s get stuck in with the first step, where do I put it?
Site and Soil
The sunniest spot in the garden is the best but rhubarb will tolerate partial shade and still do well. Partial shade does not mean a corner of the garden that gets a couple of hours of sun in the morning, make sure you get 5 or 6 hours of direct sun a day. Be aware that your new rhubarb plant will be in the same position for 10 years meaning the soil around the plant can’t be dug over to avoid damaging the wide root system. When planning your planting position be aware that a medium sized rhubarb plant will be about 4 foot in diameter so make sure you have enough room!
Rhubarb will prefer a well drained soil so if you have a wet garden we recommend using raised beds. Dig over your soil 4 weeks before planting and remove as many stones as you can. Dig in plenty of organic matter as rhubarb won’t tolerate soil disturbance once it has become established. The reason for leaving 4 weeks between digging and planting is to give the soil and added organic matter time to settle. For very high quality bulk organic matter we recommend ‘Envirogrind’ natural soil improver sold in 1 tonne bags.
When to plant
You can grow rhubarb from seed but it takes much longer and can result in plants which aren’t true to the parent variety. It’s much easier to plant part of a divided rhubarb plant which are known as rhubarb crowns. The best time to put in Rhubarb crowns is late Autumn – early Winter. November and December are perfect for starting off your new plants.
How to plant
Make sure you get your Rhubarb plants from a reputable supplier (us!) to ensure they are disease free. Dig a hole in your prepared bed a little wider than your rhubarb crown. The crown should be planted so the tip of the plant is approx 2.5cm below the surface of the soil. Firm the surrounding soil in around the roots to ensure it’s well packed and no air pockets remain. If due to some extraordinary shift in Irish weather conditions the ground is dry water well to help the plant get established.
Spread a compost mulch around the plant but not directly above the growing tip where it will emerge in 4 weeks or so.
|Variety||Between Plants||Between Rows|
|Timperley Early||75 cm||75 cm|
|Victoria||1.2 m||1.2 m|
|Glaskins Perpetual||80 – 90 cm||1 m|
Rhubarb plants require very little care and will produce for you even if you just leave them alone and ignore them. With a little care and attention however they will produce much finer stalks and crop better than lonely plants.
When the season is over and the leaves have died down spread a layer of well rotted garden compost (If you don’t have any our ‘Envirogrind’ is perfect) around the plant ensuring it’s not touching the stems. If the Summer is dry (again, unlikely) give the plants an occasional soaking. Keep the area around the plant well weeded.
Cut off any flower heads which may appear in early Spring as the new rhubarb stalks emerge from the soil. Do this as soon as you can as if the flower head is left to grow and produce seed the plant will never recover to full strength.
Rhubarb suffers from very few pests and diseases with the only problem you may encounter being crown rot. Crown rot can be avoided by planting in well drained soil and avoiding burying the growing tips under compost. If you stick to the planting guidelines this is unlikely to be a problem.
It will be tempting to harvest some of the stalks in the first year. Don’t. You should leave the new plants for the first year without harvesting any stalks as this will weaken the plant. You want your rhubarb to establish a good healthy root system and it will need all its foliage to do this.
During the second season you can pick a few stems making sure you only pull two per plant at any one time and that at least 5 healthy stalks remain. From the third season onwards pull three or four stems at a time making sure you leave 3 or 4 on the plant. The rhubarb will produce stalks from May until July or August and should give you 2 or 3 pickings from each plant.
To pick, remove the largest stalks when the leaves have fully opened. Remove the stalks by pulling gently from the base of the plant while using a twisting motion. The leaves can be composted but please don’t eat them as they are high in oxalic acid and therefore poisonous.
Rhubarb can be forced by covering with a large container like a dustbin or large pot to exclude any light. The lack of light and the warming effect of the container will make the rhubarb grow faster meaning it’s ready for picking about a month before it’s normally ready. We tend to grow ‘Timperley Early’ as this gives a very early crop without the need for forcing but it is fun to do and some people will tell you the end result is sweeter.
Forcing should be started in January. Remove any dead leaves and debris from around the plant so the crown doesn’t rot. Make sure your covering excludes all light so plug and small holes or gaps. You can also add some dry straw around the crown for extra insulation if the weather is very cold. A dark coloured bucket will absorb more heat and will warm better.
The stalks should be ready for harvesting approx 8 weeks after covering or when the stalks push the bucket off.
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- 3. Some Supplements Could Help Beard Growth
- 4. Boost Beard Circulation
- 5. Stop These Beard Killers in their Tracks
- 6. Try Peppermint Oil in 3% Dilution
- 7. Microneedle the Beard 1-2x per Week
- 8. Optimize the Beard Care Routine
- 9. Lifestyle Hacks to Improve your Beard
- How I Grew a Better Beard Using these Tips
- Can You Grow Beard Faster as a Teenager?
- Beard Growth Products, Should you Use Them?
- Can Beard Oil Speed Up Beard Growth?
- Beard Growth Infographic
- Rheum rhabarbarum
- Fruit, Vegetable, Fregetable?
- Plant a Pie
- Plants or Heirloom Seeds (And Where to Buy)
- Planting Rhubarb
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- Problems With Rhubarb
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- Extending the Season
- Eating Your Rhubarb
- You Can Grow Rhubarb Just About Anywhere!
- Planting Bare Root Rhubarb – Learn When To Plant Dormant Rhubarb Roots
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3. Some Supplements Could Help Beard Growth
There are many beard growth supplements out there on the market these days, but most of them are straight-up garbage.
The handful of supplements which I’m about to share below will work to enhance your beard growth speed, and there’s some pretty good proof of that too…
But they are not the usual “beard supplements“ or at least not marketed that way.
These don’t have the big beard logos on the middle and “BEARD” with big letters in the bottle, but they just plain and simply work.
You don’t have to be much of an Einstein to figure out that deficiencies in minerals and vitamins can negatively impact your beard’s health and growth rate.
B-vitamins like biotin, for example, are hugely important for the production of keratin, zinc deficiency is commonly associated with weaker hair growth, and multiple vitamins and minerals contribute to the synthesis of your beard growing hormones; testosterone and DHT.
And while you can fix all of your underlying deficiencies by simply eating a wholesome nutritious diet, you could also add in a simple inexpensive multivitamin supplement to cover your bases.
There are “beard growth vitamins” like Vitabeard, Beardilizer, Beard Grow XL, Iron Beard, etc yes I do know that, but they are often expensive and not that impressive in terms of what’s inside of them.
You can get much better bang for your buck by simply purchasing an inexpensive kitchen-sink multivitamin like this, or if you want to pay a little more you could also opt for a really high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement instead.
Both of those options will be cheaper (when looking at cost-per-capsule) than the special “beard vitamins” while still providing much more micronutrients to you in a higher quality.
Bottom line: For many men, a simple multivitamin supplement can significantly speed up facial hair growth. Especially if they have underlying deficiencies.
Carnitine is a non-essential amino acid that is well-known as a lipid transporter.
What it does is that it helps the body to shuttle short-chain fatty acids directly into the cells for energy use.
“What does that have to do with beard growth you ask?”
Well, there’s a study by Foizik et al. which showed that through shuttling the fatty acids into the hair follicle cells, carnitine can actually activate dormant follicles by shifting them into the anagen beard growth stage.
There are also two studies by Dr. William J. Kraemer which showed that about 2 grams of carnitine per day, was able to increase the sensitivity of the androgen receptors in men (ref, ref.)
For beard growth, that’s also amazing news, as the androgen receptors within your facial hair follicles will need to bind with androgens (testosterone and DHT) for beard growth to occur.
And if carnitine helps to increase the sensitivity of the receptors, it should definitely also increase your beard growth at the same time.
The studies both used salt-bound carnitine in the form of L-Carnitine L-tartrate. You can buy it as bulk powder from Amazon and mix with water, for example, there’s barely any taste to it so it’s easy to use.
This is something most people wouldn’t even imagine could do anything to your beard growth.
It’s a herb commonly used in India by the name of Mucuna Pruriens (velvet bean) and it contains a very interesting compound called L-Dopa.
“So what can it do for the beard?”
Well for one it does seem to increase the levels of the beard hormone testosterone levels in humans, rats, and even birds (ref, ref, ref.)
The L-Dopa in it is also known as an androgen receptor co-activator protein, and as you know, you need those active androgen receptors to grow a stronger better beard.
You can get Mucuna Pruriens from Amazon as an extract that has been standardized for L-Dopa, and that would be my recommendation over the pure powder version.
4. Boost Beard Circulation
Your beard hairs need a constant flow of hormones and nutrients into the follicles for them to sprout strong and fast.
And what supplies these beard-growing nutrients and hormones into the roots of the facial hair is your blood-flow.
The blood supply to the cheek area is commonly said to be weaker than the rest of the face such as the upper lip or the jaw.
As a result, the upper cheeks are the patchiest and hardest to fill part of facial hair in most men’s faces.
Below are two key methods of improving your beards circulation naturally.
Just start from a daily face massage.
It doesn’t have to be a long one, just something like five minutes per day should bring about noticeable benefits.
Make sure to focus on the pressure at the cheek area especially, as this will most likely be the area with the weakest flow.
The easiest way to unclog the pores and remove dead skin cells that may be trapped underneath your beard is as simple as you can imagine…
you just need to exfoliate the skin underneath your beard.
The best way to make sure this happens is to brush your beard daily with a stiff boar bristle beard brush (we have reviewed the best beard brushes here earlier so go check those out if you want).
Another great method is through using a beard exfoliator scrub once or twice per month. These are not much different from regular face scrubs, they’re just bit more liquidy for better access to the under beard skin.
If you would like to exfoliate your beard in the shower, you could even opt for a special in-shower beard scrubber with silicone bristles.
Bottom line: Your beard needs good blood-flow and unobstructed growth pathways to grow faster. Face massage and beard exfoliation can help you accomplish both.
5. Stop These Beard Killers in their Tracks
Sometimes speeding up the beard growth is not about things you can do to stimulate the follicles, but instead, things that you should be avoiding that could slow down your beards growth potential.
Below are six of the top things that are damaging your beard and suppressing its natural growth ability. If you do any of them or many of them, you simply slow your beard progress down.
Beard Killer #1: Stress
Stress can be hard to control, and sadly, I’m unqualified to give any tips on mitigating it.
However, the fact still remains that chronic stress brings about chronically elevated cortisol levels, and this stress hormone can suppress your beard growing hormones.
Bottom line: Men who are under chronic stress experience weaker beard growth as a result of elevated stress hormones.
Beard Killer #2: Picking the Beard
Got that fancy new beard comb and now you can’t help but pick and comb through your whiskers all day long?
Well, stop that my dear friend!
While there isn’t anything bad about occasionally combing your beard, doing it too often or just simply picking and fiddling around with your beard all-day will lead to beard damage, slow beard growth, and in extreme cases even beard hair loss.
Bottom line: There’s nothing that can be gained from constantly fiddling and picking the beard – and unless you have a hair-pulling disorder like trichotillomania – then it should be really easy to just quit that habit.
Beard Killer #3: Washing the Beard too Often
Over-washing the beard is a massive beard mistake that far too many beardsmen are guilty of.
You see, as androgenic-hair, the beard is much more reliant on the natural moisture that is provided by the sebaceous glands attached to your facial hair follicles.
And shampoo (especially generic hair shampoo) is designed to strip away oil and sebum.
It’s perfectly fine to shampoo your scalp-hair daily, but the same does not apply to beards.
Most grooming experts recommend that you wash your facial hair only with gentle beard shampoo’s and that you do it just 1-3 times per week at the maximum.
Washing your beard daily is a one-way ticket to the itchy beard, the beardruff city, and beard split-ends.
And since some of the fat-soluble beard hormones are also transported with the sebum, stripping your beard of it daily could also suppress your beard growth speed.
NOTE: If you feel that your beard gets dirty and needs a daily wash, then consider something called the beard-co washing method, which means that you only wash your beard with a beard conditioner and use no shampoo at all.
Beard Killer #4: Heat Damage
If you have ever been growing out a long beard, you know that facial hair – when it gets longer – has a tendency to curl around like crazy.
To help alleviate that, most men blow-dry their beards or turn to beard straighteners for help.
“Both of those methods are fantastic for straightening the beard, but sadly also cause significant heat damage to the whiskers if not done properly.”
(the two links above have guides on how to safely straighten your beard with both of the popular tools).
Bottom line: I’m not saying you should never blow-dry or straighten a beard with heat brushes or straightening irons, but if you do it extensively, with too high heat, and for too long, then you will run into some beard heat damage eventually.
Beard Killer #5: DHT-blocking Essential Oils
Surprisingly many beard oils are scented with essential oils that can suppress the master beard-growing hormone; DHT.
And while there are many many oils that actually negatively impact this hormone (even some carrier oils) the ones that you should really care about are the eucalyptus essential oil, the tea tree essential oil, and lavender essential oil.
All of these three oils contain multiple compounds that can interfere – even in minuscule amounts – with DHT and testosterone.
This is very obvious if you read through this press release from Endocrine Society, which quite literally says “Chemicals in lavender and tea tree oil appear to be hormone disruptors“.
Bottom line: There are dozens of great smelling essential oils that won’t suppress your DHT and are perfectly fine for beard growth. I don’t see the reason why companies are still putting these possibly harmful essential oils into their beard oils today.
Beard Killer #6: Relaxing Creams
There’s a new rising trend in the beard care industry and that is the beard relaxing cream.
It’s the most effective method of straightening a beard for sure, as it quite literally breaks the keratin-bonds inside of your facial hair fibers and makes them straight and flat.
But this straightening comes with a price that you will pay through beard damage and a slower rate of facial hair growth.
This is how a well-known expert on the topic of relaxing creams explains the damage they can cause…
Black women that relax their hair straight from the age of 20 to 40 will lose 50% of their hair strands, the result of long term chemical use is that the follicle will not produce new hair, causing premature baldness, and having to turn to the use of wigs, weaves and braiding.Dr. W. Morrow
Bottom line: If your beard comes in curly, then let it come in curly or use a blow-dryer/heat brush to tame the whiskers. Going all extreme with a keratin-bond breaking relaxing cream is not recommended, it’ll literally kill the beard from inside out.
6. Try Peppermint Oil in 3% Dilution
I was against using peppermint oil for beard growth stimulation for a long time due to some studies suggesting that when you consume it orally, it might drop testosterone levels.
And dropping T is obviously not really good for the beard.
However, there’s no evidence that topical use of peppermint essential oil (PEO) would interfere with hormones, and even better, there’s a study which suggests it might stimulate the hair follicles to increase in number, size, and both the thickness and speed of their hair growth.
This evidence comes from a study in mice, where four groups of rodents were shaved and four different solutions were applied to their skins for 30 days.
What happened was that the salt-water solution did pretty much nothing to stimulate hair growth, and jojoba oil had a very marginal positive effect…
And minoxidil, as you might expect, worked quite well, significantly improving the growth rate and thickness of hairs.
“But then there was a big surprise; the peppermint essential oil, which was even more effective at stimulating the hair follicles than minoxidil.”
Here’s a graph of the results:
The researches measured various things in this study, and they saw that the peppermint oil works primarily through increasing the levels of IGF-1 growth hormone within the follicles.
This results in more active follicles, increased hair thickness (diameter), more hairs transitioning into the anagen growth phase, and overall, faster beard growth.
Of course, the big limitation of this study is that these were indeed mice, not humans.
But could the results translate to increased beard growth potential in a human male?
We think they could. After all, mice are studied because they share very similar reproductive and digestive systems as humans do, and there have been previous human studies where increased IGF-1 has been shown to stimulate the follicles and help shift more hairs into the anagen growth phase.
So if applying a 3% dilution of PEO to your skin results in increased facial hair follicle IGF-1 levels, then it’s also likely that it would help speed up beard growth.
How do you make a 3% solution from pure peppermint oil?
Well, you dilute it into a carrier oil (never rub pure essential oils into the skin, they’re extremely potent and will burn like hell).
Here’s a simple guide to making 3% PEO solution:
- Get one 1 oz dropper bottle.
- Fill the bottle almost to brim with jojoba oil (good brand).
- Buy some 100% pure peppermint essential oil (good brand).
- Drip approximately 18 drops of PEO into the dropper bottle.
- Close the cap, shake well, and you have your 3% PEO.
You can use this solution on your beard area twice per day, and you could also combine it with minoxidil, and use it as a beard moisturizer after you have had the Minox on your beard area for ~4 hours.
7. Microneedle the Beard 1-2x per Week
If you want to promote the circulation on your face to grow more beard on cheeks and to convert those thin little light vellus hairs into a thicker terminal beard, then you should microneedle.
What that means is getting a device called the Derma Roller with needle-length of either 0.5mm or 0.75mm (I personally use and recommend this one).
How the Derma Roller works on beard is very simple:
- You roll through your beard area with the Derma Roller
- The tiny needles puncture small holes into the skin surface
- The body notices this and it starts the repair process.
- Nutrients, blood, and hormones are shuttled to the scene.
- Indirectly, this supplies building blocks for your beard hairs.
There is currently one study about this but it was done on scalp-hair.
Regardless, it showed that when used in combination with Minoxidil, men were able to get much better results if they Derma Rolled and used Minox instead of just using the hair-loss drug alone.
Here’s a graph that shows this:
Will similar results be obtainable for beard growth enhancement?
I believe so.
There are also many positive anecdotal reports from thousands of guys who microneedle their beards at the Minox Beard Spot group on FaceBook.
I go through all the details of how to use a Derma Roller for beard growth in this article here, but if you just want the quick facts; just get a 0.5-0.75mm roller and use it once per week on the beard area.
8. Optimize the Beard Care Routine
One of the easiest things to do for stimulating beard growth on a pre-existing beard is to take a look at your current beard care routine.
The first thing to check would be your beard oils, beard balm, and beard waxes to see if they have any beard growth suppressing ingredients like tea tree oil, eucalyptus, or lavender oils.
Next up you should make sure that you’re not brushing or combing your beard too often to avoid stress on the follicles. Brushing once per day is enough, and combing 2-4 times is plenty enough.
Then let’s move into cleaning the beard. Make sure you actually use a dedicated beard wash instead of harsh generic shampoos and don’t wash the beard too often, just a couple times per week is enough.
Lastly, make sure to also care for the beard from the inside, as in drink enough of water, eat enough of food (beard growth is an energy-expensive process), and make sure to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs to spew out facial hair.
9. Lifestyle Hacks to Improve your Beard
There are many lifestyle-related basic things that you could optimize for speedier facial hair growth.
These are the basic things that everyone subconsciously knows can help, but really aren’t doing them, and even though they may seem kinda boring, they can still boost beard growth quite significantly over a longer stretch of time.
Let’s take a look at the top three.
It’s hard nowadays to get to bed on time. There’s Netflix, HBO, YouTube, and million other things you could be doing instead, and it’s starting to feel like a chore to get to sleep early.
However, sleep is something we should not be delayed, as it has been shown that when men cut their sleep time by just an hour or two, their testosterone levels are immediately lowered for the next day.
Since it’s a hormone of beard growth, lack of sleep will eventually catch up and slow down your beard growth rate for sure.
Exercise and Lift Weights
Any type of daily activity is known for increasing the hormones that fuel facial hair growth, and it can also improve your circulation especially to the beard area.
But the best type of exercise for facial hair growth purposes would be heavy weight-lifting and explosive resistance training because it activates the androgen receptors.
Bottom line: Sensitive and activate androgen receptors are good news for beard growth, and since resistance training can help with this, I suggest you start doing it.
Having a somewhat low body fat percentage can help you increase facial hair growth, simply because fat mass is known for breaking DHT down into a less potent by-product called 3a-diol (source).
So technically your belly is breaking down the hormone that builds your beard at a faster rate.
Does that mean fat guys can’t grow beards? No, absolutely not. It’s just likely that being lean would help them grow theirs even thicker.
How I Grew a Better Beard Using these Tips
I really struggled with my beard growth in my early 20s and in the military, I barely had to even shave to maintain a clean face.
I knew I didn’t have too great of beard genetics to work with (looking around the men in my family) but I decided to give it a shot anyway and see if I truly could beat my genetics with natural testosterone optimization, circulation optimization, Minoxidil, Derma Rolling, etc.
“Did it work? Well, yes absolutely. It’s the reason I started this site too.”
Here’s a picture:
Going by frame-by-frame, I had just gotten out of the military in and started focusing on boosting my beard growing hormones in the first pic.
It worked quite well, as you can see in the second frame, I already have much more facial hair to work with, including some on the cheeks.
On the third picture, I have added in a Derma Roller and more focused supplementation routine specifically for beard growth (carnitine, multivitamin, mucuna pruriens, gelatin powder, and forskolin).
In the last pic, I had used Minoxidil on my cheeks for a bit and let my beard grow out. You can be the judge on how well it worked.
My point is that these beard growth tips do work, and I have tried them myself. It just takes some time and commitment to get the results, as beard growth is not an overnight process, especially if you’re fighting against your genetics.
Can You Grow Beard Faster as a Teenager?
You would be surprised if I showed you how many young teens email me asking how to stimulate beard growth as a teen.
My email inbox is literally flooded with questions like “how to grow a beard faster at 16” or 15, 18.
My answer is that yes, you can use the above tips to grow your beard faster as a teenager, as androgenic hair can be stimulated as soon as you are going through puberty and your hormones properly kick in.
Before that, it’s not really effective and wouldn’t make any sense in the first place.
So I would recommend most of the stuff from this list if you’re looking to speed up your beard growth as a teen, but not Minoxidil. That stuff is potent and has some side effects, and it’s best to save it for later if your facial hair doesn’t come in naturally.
Beard Growth Products, Should you Use Them?
Those flashy beard growth products that are sold everywhere are nothing but modern-day snake oil.
You got the beard growth serums and sprays, the beard growth oils, special beard vitamins and pills, and other sorts of beard growth creams and whatnot.
“All of them tend to be just dropper bottles or sprayers with basic carrier oils and essential oils, the same stuff that’s in regular beard oils.”
If they’re supplements, they are often just very low-quality multivitamins with a beard logo on the bottle and a huge price tag, with an illusion that it would be somehow specially formulated for facial hair growth (which they never are).
Honestly, I would just save my money if I were you. The market for beard growth products exists solely to make empty promises on desperate men looking to grow beards. Don’t fall prey.
Can Beard Oil Speed Up Beard Growth?
No, it can’t.
Beard oil is designed to moisturize the facial hair and to replenish the natural oils that you lose during the shower, etc.
The formulations contain just basic carrier oils like castor oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, etc. with some essential oils like cedarwood, orange, patchouli, and so forth…
None of these ingredients can make your beard grow, and even though most manufacturers will say that it “makes existing hairs grow faster and provides optimal growth conditions”, the fact is that if you can’t grow a beard, moisturizing your face won’t grow it any better.
You need something stronger if the goal is to stimulate beard growth, something like Minoxidil, combined with a Derma Roller, and a high-potency peppermint oil dilution.
Beard Growth Infographic
You can absolutely grow your beard faster naturally, and there’s plenty of proof for that above.
Does it happen overnight? No. Big beard growth results take time, though if you do have good existing growth of facial hair, then speeding that up with the tips and tricks above should not take too long.
To recap everything in a sentence:
You can stimulate your beard growth speed with things like proper nutrition, exercise, sleeping more, applying 3% dilution of peppermint oil to the face, trying Minoxidil for beard, improving cheek circulation, and through microneedling with a Derma Roller.
You Might Also Like
- Do Women Like Beards? – Explaining the Results from 7 Studies and Trials
- 7 Cheap Beard Oil Substitutes that Can Easily Replace the Real Deal
- Bald with Beard – Why Every Balding Man Should Consider Growing Facial Hair
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I have faint memories of a neighbor woman down the street from our house in Northern California sharing great bundles of homegrown rhubarb with our family when I was quite wee.
That was approximately 300 years ago, and I don’t think I’ve heard much about rhubarb since.
I suppose smarter people than I have expounded on why this sour vegetable has fallen out of favor, but if I were to hazard a guess, I might lay the demise of its popularity at the feet of our sweet-obsessed culture.
Rhubarb, whose edible stalks sort of look like rosy celery, is tart. Extraordinarily tart. Think Granny Smith apple times 100.
This vegetable/fruit (hang on – we’ll explain in a minute) is almost never eaten raw. It’s often baked into a pie or cobbler with something close to five pounds of sugar.
Photo by Gretchen Heber.
Okay, just kidding, but you get the point.
The truth is, those who aren’t in the known about this stalky homegrown treat are missing out. And you, too, can grow it in your own garden.
Let’s take a look at the best methods to grow it, and some delicious culinary suggestions for getting the most out of your harvest.
Here’s what’s to come:
But first, back to that fruit or vegetable thing…
Fruit, Vegetable, Fregetable?
Botanically a vegetable, rhubarb is often referred to as a fruit because, culinarily, that’s how we use it.
Apparently, the US Customs Office even legally declared rhubarb a fruit in the 1940s — something to do with import taxes and that’s basically how it was used in cooking anyway. But again, technically it’s a vegetable.
Whatever you call it, here’s an important factoid we want to get out there before we get too far into this guide:
This plant’s leaves are poisonous. Way poisonous. So don’t eat them.
As soon as you harvest the stalks, cut the leaves off and throw them away where neither human nor beast can get to them.
The root and rhizome of the plant are okay to ingest, however, and have been used as a medicinal plant in Asia — where it is native — for around 5,000 years, if not longer.
In fact, modern natural-medicine adherents around the world sometimes use rhubarb to address digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn. Rhubarb is also used by some to treat cold sores.
Plant a Pie
Hardy and treated as a perennial in zones 3-8, gardeners in southern zones sometimes have luck growing R. rhabarbarum as an annual, though our brutal heat can make it tough to get a harvest in before the plants burn up.
Rhubarb, aka “pie plant,” also needs extended temperatures below 40°F during the cold season, which some Southern zones just don’t get.
Though it won’t typically survive multiple seasons in southern climes, it can be grown as a winter annual in the south. Be sure to give plants extra protection from the summer sun in these areas, and plant in an section of the garden with afternoon shade.
This plant grows to 2 to 3 feet tall and spreads 3 to 4 feet. On up to 5-foot stalks, the plant produces flowers that, in their nascent stage, resemble pink-tinged cauliflower. They gradually unfurl into great clouds of white.
While it is generally recommended to cut off flower buds to increase stalk production, some gardeners opt to allow the flowers to bloom, for beauty’s sake or to eat, as the flowers are edible, too.
Plants or Heirloom Seeds (And Where to Buy)
If you want to add R. rhabarbarum to your garden, your best bet is to “borrow” a crown from a neighbor, or purchase a small plant.
Since plant division is typically not an option in hotter regions where rhubarb cannot be grown as a perennial, it must be grown from seed in these USDA Hardiness Zones.
Photo by Gretchen Heber © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Growers Solution, Mountain Valley Seed Company, Nature Hills Nursery, and Bonide. Uncredited photos: . Originally published by Mike Quinn on September 29th, 2014. Last updated on May 4th, 2018 with additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.
About Gretchen Heber
A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.
You’ll be happy to discover rhubarb is a hardy and problem-free perennial. You plant a few roots (or crowns) and then every spring thereafter, you can treat your family to one of the season’s most refreshing tastes. Weeks before the first strawberry ripens, you can enjoy the tart yet sweet flavor of rhubarb’s celery-like red or green leaf stalks in pies, jams, and jellies. “Victoria,” “Canada Red,” and “Valentine” are three popular varieties that produce red stalks. Don’t eat the foliage, though: it’s poisonous.
Rhubarb thrives in cool locations and full sun. In warmer climates, plants benefit from light shade but form longer, thinner stems.
Grow rhubarb from root divisions, called crowns, rather than from seed, which can produce plants that are not true to type. Choose a sunny, well-drained, out-of-the-way spot for this long-lived perennial.
Before planting, prepare a hole at least 1.5 feet deep and 3 feet wide. Loosen the soil and enrich it with a 6-inch layer of compost. Add a handful of bonemeal if your soil is low in phosphorus. Set the crowns of rhubarb divisions 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface.
Set container-grown plants level with the soil surface or slightly lower if the surrounding soil is likely to settle.
Rhubarb Growing Guidelines
Once plants sprout, apply mulch to retain soil moisture and smother weeds. Renew mulch when the foliage dies down in fall to protect roots from extremely hard freezes. Provide enough water to keep roots from drying out, even when they’re dormant. Side dress with compost in midsummer and again in fall. Remove flower stalks before they bloom to encourage leaf-stalk production. After several years, when plants become crowded and the leaf stalks are thin, dig up the roots in spring just as they sprout. Divide so that each crown has one to three eyes (buds); replant.
Problems With Rhubarb
Rhubarb is usually pest free. Occasionally it’s attacked by European corn borers and cabbage worms. A more likely pest is rhubarb curculio, a ¾-inch-long, rust-colored beetle that you can easily control by hand picking. To destroy its eggs, remove and destroy any nearby wild dock in July.
Diseases also rare, but rhubarb can succumb to Verticillium wilt, which yellows leaves early in the season and can wilt whole plants in late attacks. Crown rot occurs in shady, soggy soil. For either disease, remove and destroy infected plants; keep stalks thinned to promote good air circulation, and clean up thoroughly around crowns in fall. If stands become seriously diseased, destroy the entire stand. Replant disease-free stock in a new location. ‘MacDonald’ is a rot-resistant variety that grows well in heavy soils.
You can harvest 2 to 6 pounds of rhubarb each season from a full-size plant. Cool, moist weather tends to increase productivity, while warm, dry conditions may reduce your harvest.
In spring when the leaves are fully developed, snap off rhubarb stalks by twisting them sharply at the base. Or cut them off with a sharp knife, using care to avoid injuring underground buds. Cut off and compost the leaves as you harvest.
You may lightly harvest rhubarb one year after planting small divisions or nursery plants. Gradually increase the number of stalks and the length of time you pick in the second and third years of growth. Expect healthy plants to produce fully in the fourth year.
Extending the Season
If you have extra rhubarb plants, try forcing one in the winter. In fall, transplant the extra into a tub of moist planting mix or sand. Leave the tub outdoors in 28 to 50 degree temperatures for seven to nine weeks, then move it into cool (55 to60 degrees), bright indoor conditions. Keep the soil moist; stalks will appear in about a month. Harvest when they reach 1 to 1.5 feet long.
Eating Your Rhubarb
In the kitchen, you’ll like rhubarb’s tangy taste and versatility — it plays nicely with other flavors in stuffing, sauces for meat and fish, tarts, crisps, pies, preserves, and even ice cream sandwiches. Try pickling the stalks for a delicious summer treat.
You Can Grow Rhubarb Just About Anywhere!
Q. We love rhubarb, but many years ago our huge patch died and we were told there was a disease in the soil. Since, then I have tried many times to start new crowns in other spots. The roots go in a deep rich hole and the shoots come up beautiful, but the leaves start to go brown and brittle when they are about 5 inches in size. Soon, the plant withers and dies—but amazingly, comes back the next spring. Can you help? I’m dreaming of rhubarb pie and jam!
- —Bob in Springfield, Ohio
A. I have always been fascinated by the oddities of rhubarb: ‘the only vegetable we use as a fruit’; and the only garden crop whose leaves are toxic, but whose stalks are safe to eat. (Unless you’re highly sensitive to oxalates, as there are low levels of those crystalline-like structures in the stalks as well. Oxalate-sensitive individuals must also avoid spinach and some other foods.) Anyway, we devoted a lot of ink to this popular plant during my time as Editor of ORGANIC GARDENING magazine; and here’s a condensation and compilation of our best growing advice:
Rhubarb can be planted Spring or Fall. Unless you’re sharing someone else’s root divisions, the plant will arrive in the form of a crown with eye-like shoots on top. Dig a deep hole—about the size of a bushel basket—and then mostly fill it back up with rich organic matter—compost, well-aged manure—and some sand or soil-free mix, if your soil is heavy. Place the crown in the center of this richness, so that the buds are a few inches below the soil line, cover with more manure and compost and then mulch over top with compost, manure, shredded leaves or straw.
rhubarb grows best in climates with lots of rain, and has what’s known as a ‘chilling requirement’; it needs a certain number of nights in the 40’s and below to produce well. In naturally cold climates, plant rhubarb in full sun. If you’re trying to get it to do well in the South or Hot West, make sure it gets afternoon shade and lots of water.
Although good drainage is essential, rhubarb requires a lot of water. New plantings must be kept moist if rain is scarce; and even established plants need to be watered at least an inch a week anytime it doesn’t rain during the growing season.
Most sources say not to harvest any stalks the first year and to only harvest lightly the second year—otherwise the crown will peter out prematurely. When harvesting, try and twist the stalks away from the plant rather than cut them. And, of course, remove and discard every tiny bit of the poisonous leaves.
To produce their best, the plants will need to be dug up and divided every five years or so—ideally in very early Spring, before the new growth begins.
Most sources also agree that rhubarb suffers few to no pest or disease problems. So, my diagnostic guesses for the failure in Ohio are: poorly draining soil, lack of watering attention during dry times, lack of sun and/or not enough food. Rhubarb is a HEAVY feeder that wants to be top dressed with lots of compost and aged manure every season.
And it’s no surprise that ‘dead plants’ came back in Ohio. Although you can stress it, rhubarb is hard to kill in cool climes. In fact, it likes to grow so much that real enthusiasts can sometimes harvest a patch all summer long (not just in Spring) by providing shade in hot times, lots of food and water, and harvesting the stalks promptly.
Q. Do you think I’m too far south for rhubarb to do well? My “USDA Zone” is supposed to be 7, but sometimes I see it listed as 8. (I must be just on the line.)
- —Delma in Coastal NC
Can rhubarb be grown here in Central Texas? (We’re about 20 miles west of Waco; Zone 8.) We are transplants from South Dakota and really miss fresh rhubarb.
- —The Rev. Tom; St. Paul Lutheran Church; Crawford, TX
A. The farther South you get, the more rhubarb needs afternoon shade and lots and lots of water. The varieties known as ‘cherry’ and ‘cherry red’ are said to have the best chance of perennializing in the South; but in really hot climes, rhubarb must be grown as an annual crop, planted fresh each year. Hot-weather rhubarb fiends start their seeds indoors (just like tomatoes) in August, transplant the starts outdoors at eight weeks of age into fertile, well-drained soil and harvest stalks December through April—after which the poor plants just burn up in the heat.
Q. My Rhubarb, two years old and growing beautifully, has just developed what look like flowers forming on the top. Should I cut them off to let all the energy go into the fruit stalks (of which I have about 7)?
- —Tony, just outside Philadelphia on the Main Line.
A. Yes, cut ’em off. Flowers draw needed energy from the crown and should be removed promptly. (They’re also not very pretty, and any seeds they produce probably would not grow usable rhubarb.)
Q. Hi Mike! Love your show and thought you might like this short video on growing rhubarb indoors here in the UK. Enjoy!
- —Marc in London
A. Thank you, Marc—the video is wonderful, and it looks like folks who live just about anywhere could utilize this amazingly simple technique to grow premium rhubarb. All you need is a cellar! Check it out.
Ask Mike A Question Mike’s YBYG Archives Find YBYG Show
Quick Guide to Growing Rhubarb
- Plant rhubarb during the cool days of early spring, once the ground thaws.
- Rhubarb produces a harvest for up to 8 years, so grow it in a sunny area where it will go undisturbed for a long time.
- Give rhubarb room to spread out by planting them 4 to 6 feet apart.
- Improve your native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
- When hot weather arrives, apply a 2-inch layer of mulch to keep soil moist and help block weeds.
- Check soil moisture regularly and water when the top inch of soil becomes dry.
- Feed rhubarb regularly with a continuous-release plant food.
- Start regular harvesting in year 3 when stalks are 12 to 18 inches long and reach their ideal red color.
Soil, Planting, and Care
A true perennial, rhubarb plants can yield harvests 5 to 8 years or longer. Once plants are established, they don’t transplant easily, so choose your planting site carefully. It will also help to start with the best plants you can get. Young Bonnie Plants® rhubarb plants are strong and vigorous, so you’re already ahead of the game when you plant. Rhubarb thrives in full sun but will yield to light shade. Select a location that gives plants ample room; individual rhubarb plants can measure up to four feet wide and tall.
Plant crowns in spring as soon as soil is workable. Tuck plants into slightly acidic soil rich in organic matter; blend in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost, or improve the soil with aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil. Rhubarb crowns require shallow planting (around 4 inches deep), but because plants are such heavy feeders, you should dig planting holes at least a foot deep. If your soil is heavy clay, you may want to consider planting rhubarb in raised beds filled with soil designed especially for that kind of growing environment, such as organic Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil.
Water newly planted crowns, and keep soil moist throughout the growing season. As summer heat arrives, mulch plants with a 2-inch-thick layer of organic mulch, such as compost, straw, or shredded bark. Replenish mulch throughout the growing season as needed to maintain 2-inch thickness. Best growth comes from using plant food that works in concert with the soil to provide just the right nutrition for your rhubarb plants. Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition feeds plants continuously for up to 6 weeks, plus also feeds the beneficial microbes in the soil that help make nutrients available to your plants.
In fall, when stems die back, remove all plant debris. Mulch plants after the ground freezes, covering crowns with 2 to 4 inches of compost or leaves.
Planting Bare Root Rhubarb – Learn When To Plant Dormant Rhubarb Roots
Rhubarb is often acquired from a neighbor or friend who is dividing a large plant, but bare root rhubarb plants are another popular option for propagation. Of course, you can plant seeds or buy potted rhubarb plants as well, but there is a difference between planting bare root rhubarb and the others. What’s bare root rhubarb? The following article contains information on how and when to plant dormant rhubarb roots.
What is Bare Root Rhubarb?
Bare root plants are dormant perennial plants that have been dug up, the dirt brushed off and then wrapped in damp sphagnum moss or nestled in sawdust to keep them moist. The advantage to bare root plants is that they are usually less expensive than potted perennials and are often easier to deal with than container grown plants.
Bare root rhubarb plants look like woody, dried roots and may sometimes arrive dusted with a powder to keep the root from molding.
How to Plant Bare Root Rhubarb
Most bare root plants available, such as rhubarb or asparagus, are planted during the cool dormant times of the year. Rhubarb is shipped out when it is dormant to reduce the risk of transplant shock and so it can be planted both in the fall and in the spring in most regions.
Before planting your bare root rhubarb, choose a sunny location with at least 6 hours of full sun and remove any weeds. Rhubarb thrives in fertile, well-draining soil with a pH of between 5.5 and 7.0. If planting more than one bare root rhubarb, allow at least 3 feet (.9 m.) between plantings.
Dig a hole that is about a foot wide by a foot deep (30 cm. x 30 cm.). Loosen the soil at the bottom and sides of the hole so the roots can spread more easily. At this point, if you want to amend the soil a bit, now is the time to do so. Add well-rotted or dry manure and compost along with the topsoil that was removed from the hole.
Back fill the hole a bit and position the bare root rhubarb plant so that the crown, opposite of the root end, is 2-3 inches (5-7 cm.) below the soil surface. Tamp the soil down lightly over the newly planted rhubarb to remove any air pockets and then water in thoroughly.
Rhubarb Plants -How to Plant Rhubarb Plants /Crowns / Roots
If you have rhubarb plants and you are looking for information on how to plant them in your garden, you have come to the right place!
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Although it is possible to grow rhubarb from seed, rhubarb planting using root stock, or crowns, is the favoured method for growing rhubarb, especially in Northern climates.
The best time to plant rhubarb from root stock or crowns, (also referred to as “rhizomes”), is in early spring.
Once planted, it will thrive in the cooler spring temperatures and will really begin to grow once the soil temperature reaches above 40 ° F.
In Southern climates rhubarb plants do not thrive as well as in Northern climates, because it does not grow well in temperatures over 90° F.
In some tropical and sub-tropical areas however, it can be grown during the cooler season of those climates.
In the Northern climates, where rhubarb flourishes very well, it requires at least 4 – 8 hours of sunlight daily.
In the Southern climates, it is advisable to plant rhubarb where it will receive some afternoon shade. Rhubarb stalks will be more spindly in these climates.
See Also: Can Rhubarb Be Grown in the South?
Rhubarb grows well in almost any garden soil, although, like most plants, it does not like soggy soil. Ideally, the area where you are planning to plant rhubarb should have well-draining soil with compost or well-decayed manure worked into the soil.
The ideal pH level for growing rhubarb is about 5.5 to 6.5.
Many people ask if they can grow rhubarb plants in pots or containers on their patio or their balcony.
Although some people do have success growing rhubarb in this way, it is not a recommended method of rhubarb gardening.
To read more about planting rhubarb in pots,
GO to Container Gardening – Can Rhubarb be Grown in Containers?
Instructions for How to Plant Rhubarb
In your prepared garden, dig a small hole where you plan to plant the rhubarb.
Add water to the hole.
Carefully remove the plant from the pot in which you have purchased it, and set it inside the hole. Be sure the soil of the potted plant is moist enough so that when you gently pull at the plant, the soil remains around the crown/roots like a “ball”)
Plant with the top bud about 5 cm (2″) below soil level.
Fill in the area around the plant base with soil, while ensuring the plant is firmly set.
If you are planting more than one plant, space the plants about 75 cm. (30″) each way.
Diagram of How to Plant Rhubarb
How to Plant Rhubarb Plants or Roots
Careful planting of rhubarb will ensure a bountiful harvest of healthy rhubarb stalks.
Enjoy watching your rhubarb garden grow and grow — and you don’t have to replant or seed it every year!
A few years after you plant your first rhubarb plant, you will notice how quickly it “self propagates” and you will most likely have more rhubarb than you can use fresh.
Gardeners having too much rhubarb is a comment that I hear from time to time. Having too much rhubarb means you have lots to preserve for winter!
That’s when you freeze it, or can or dry it! I prefer to freeze my extra rhubarb because freezing rhubarb is extremely quick and easy!
Here below, (or use the navigation bars) are helpful links to information about growing rhubarb in the home garden.
CARING for Rhubarb
Rhubarb COMPANION Gardening
More COMPANION Plant Ideas
LINKS RELATED TO RHUBARB GARDENING
ORGANIC PESTICIDE RECIPES and Information
EASIEST Vegetable to GROW
WEED CONTROL Tips
WHERE to Grow Rhubarb
How to GET RID OF SLUGS
CONTAINER GARDENING – Can Rhubarb be Grown in Containers/Pots?
Yorkshire FORCED RHUBARB
TOP of How to Plant Rhubarb Plants
HOME to Homepage of Rhubarb-Central.com
Rhubarb is a cool season, perennial plant that is very winter hardy and resistant to drought. Its crop is produced from crowns consisting of fleshy rhizomes and buds. Following a season of growth the rhubarb crown becomes dormant and temperatures below 40 °F / 5 °C are required to stimulate bud break and subsequent growth. The first shoots to appear in the spring are edible petioles and leaves. These emerge sequentially as long as temperatures remain cool (below 90 °F / 32 °C). As temperatures increase, top growth is suppressed, even appearing dormant in periods of extreme heat. With declining temperatures in later summer, foliage growth resumes.
Climate and Growing Region
Rhubarb is a cool season, perennial crop. It requires temperatures below 40 °F / 5 °C to break dormancy and to stimulate spring growth and summer temperatures averaging less than 75 °F / 24 °C for vigorous vegetative growth. The Northern U.S. and Canada are well suited for rhubarb production. In the United states it grows best in the northern states from Maine south to Illinois and west to Washington state. Once planted, rhubarb plantings remain productive for 8 to 15 years.
In the United States, commercial production is concentrated in Washington (275 Acres), Oregon (200 Acres), and Michigan (200 Acres), with small commercial acreage in many northern states field and greenhouse forced production. A good commercial yield is 15 tons and an exceptional yield is about 18 tons. Red varieties usually yield about 50% of the green types; however, if the crop is harvested twice in one year, total yields will increase about 50%.
Rhubarb can not be very successfully grown in the southern regions of the United States, although there are exceptions. Rhubarb is a popular garden vegetable in northern areas of the United States but unfortunately will not do well in hot, dry summers of the south. If it survives the heat it will not grow well will produce only thin leaf stalks which are spindly and lack color. Rhubarb will wilt very quickly on hot days (over 90 °F). There has been mention of an unknown variety of rhubarb with large green petioles that thrives in the Panhandle north of Amarillo (Texas).
Rhubarb tolerates most soils but grows best on fertile, well-drained soils that are high in organic matter. A clean planting site is essential for the cultivation of rhubarb since no herbicides are registered for use on rhubarb. Small areas of perennial weeds can quickly build up to serious proportions. To prevent this, all perennial weeds should be killed the year before planting. The fields should be cultivated in the spring and after cutting, and hand hoeing may also be necessary. Rhubarb is relatively free of insect and disease problems.
Rhubarb is rather tolerant of soil acidity but does best in slightly to moderately acid soil. The crop can tolerate soil pH as low as 5.0; however, maximum yields are attained at a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Liberal quantities of fertilizer are needed.
Rhubarb responds well to fertilizers. The quality of the crop harvested depends to a large extent on the care and fertilization received. Commercial growing requires about 1500 pounds of 10-10-10 per acre before planting. Home gardeners should give each plant 1 cup (about 2 handful’s) of 10-10-10 fertilizer each spring, applied in a circle around the plant when growth starts. Fertilize each year and cultivate shallowly as often as necessary to remove weeds.
Manure is an extremely valuable source of organic matter as it helps to conserve moisture, preserves the soil structure, and makes nutrients readily available. Fifteen tons of manure should be applied per acre before planting for commercial growing or one to two shovels per plant for home gardeners. An application of composted manure or leaves is beneficial in late fall and early winter, but do not cover the crowns as this may promote rotting. Fresh manure should not be used as this will burn the tender rhubarb plants.
Adding Manure to rhubarb plant
Planting and Spacing
Plant rhubarb roots in early spring. Planting seeds is not recommended as it may take too long for the plants to become established, and the seedlings would not come true to color and size, if that is important to you.
Space rhubarb roots 24 to 48 inches (60-120 cm) apart in rows 3 to 4 feet (1 m) apart for commercial growing. These distances can be decreased to 36 inches for plants in rows and rows for smaller gardens (non commercial). Much smaller than this will seriously crowd the plants and result in a diminished crop and increase the likelihood of spreading disease. A 2-3 year old plant, the Victoria variety can be 4 feet (1.25 meter) in diameter and 3 feet (1 meter) tall. Plant the roots with the crown bud 2 inches (5 cm) below the surface of the soil. The hole for the crown should be dug extra large and composted manure, peat moss or dairy organic should be mixed with the soil to be placed around the roots. Firm the soil around the roots but keep it loose over the buds. Water the crowns after planting. Give the plant 1/4 cup of 5-10-10 worked in to the top 10 inches of soil at planting time. Good garden drainage is essential in growing rhubarb. For home gardeners, planting in raised beds helps ensure against rotting of the crowns. Crowns will have a longevity of many years, but because of diseases and insects, it is Normal to reset a bed after 4-5 years.
General Growing Information
Rhubarb responds to good care and watering. Remove the flower stalks as they are seen. During the first year of planting, the stalks should not be picked, since food from the leaves is needed to nourish the roots for the next year’s growth. One light picking may be taken during the year following planting if the plants are vigorous, and beginning the second year following planting, the entire plant may be harvested. When harvesting rhubarb, the first step is to cut the stalks at the soil line or simply pull them out individually. All of the stalks of a plant may be harvested at one time, or pulled out selectively over a 4-6 week period. After the stalks are cut, the leaves may be removed. For the home (small) gardener, rhubarb will tolerate a fair amount of neglect and still thrive, they are very tough plants.
The rhubarb season (in the United States) runs from April to September, although it can be grown forced (see Forcing in winter) which accounts for its availability early in the year when other crops are scarce. Early forced rhubarb has a distinctive bright pink color and delicate flavor. Outdoor rhubarb is a little darker in color.
Refrain from harvesting rhubarb the first year after planting. Each plant needs time to build up food reserves in the root to produce thick, robust stems.
Established rhubarb plants can be coaxed into early outdoor production by covering plants with clear plastic in the early spring, before the crown starts to grow. As growth starts, cut 1/4 inch ventilation holes in the plastic. As leaves get larger, cut the plastic to keep the leaves free.
Rhubarb hit by a frost or freeze can still be eaten provided the stalks are still firm and upright. Leaf injury may be noticeable with some brown or black discoloration on the edges. If the stems appear soft and mushy, do not eat them. Severe cold injury may cause the oxalic acid crystals in the leaves to migrate to the stalks increasing the likelihood of poisoning problems. If in doubt about the safety of eating the stalks, don’t. Cut those stalks off and compost them. Allow new stalks to develop before eating, or if it is the end of the growing season, try forcing some rhubarb indoors (see Forcing in winter).
How do I prepare my rhubarb plants for winter
Rhubarb needs cold to trigger spring growth. Rhubarb tolerates very cold (-20 F) very well. Collect the last few stalks after the first hard frost and throw them on the compost pile. Then spread a layer (2-3″) or compost (or leaves or hay) to prevent winter winds from drying out your roots. You don’t need to do much.
Do I need to thin my overgrown rhubarb?
Established clumps will have to be trimmed every 4 to 5 years or when the stalks get small and spindly or when the crown is visibly crowded. This will help the plant to keep growing nice thick stems. This is done by digging around and trimming the crown down to 4 or 5 buds. You can also use this opportunity to divide your plant into more plants. You may encounter is rot in the crowns from excessive water in the crown area. If so, destroy these plants.