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How to Grow Rhubarb

A guide to growing Rhubarb in gardens, allotments and containers


Family/Latin Name

Polygonaceae- Rheum

Type of Plant

Herbaceous perennial

Suitable for

Gardens, Allotments, Large Containers

Recommended forms Crowns
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Growing Rhubarb - Details

See also:-  Fruit Growing Glossary  |  Tree Forms  |  Container Growing  | Buying Plants


Although Rhubarb is classified as a vegetable, we have placed it in the fruit section as this is the way it is most often used

Site and Soil

Prefer full sun out of strong winds
Prefer well drained deep soils
Compact varieties suitable for large tubs and containers

Plant Dimensions

Height:  +1m/3ft  - Spread: up to 1.5m/5ft


Mature plants will give +2.2kg/5lb of fruit per year

Time between planting  and harvesting

1-year-old crowns: Produce a light crop the season after planting

Planting Time - Crowns

Best: Late October to December

Alternatives: January to February (soil conditions permitting)

Number of plants needed for pollination Not applicable
How to plant - Open ground Dig in plenty of well rotted manure or compost. Dig a hole large enough to take the crown,  spacing the  crowns 90cm/3ft apart on all sides, then fill in the hole making sure the top of the crown is just below soil level.  Firm well and water in.
How to plant - in containers Container size minimum 60cm/2ft wide x 60cm/2ft deep.

Make sure there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom of the container.  Fill the container with soil or a loam based compost within  5cm/2" of the top of the container. Dig a hole in the centre, add the crown then fill in the hole making sure the top of the crown is covered with 2.5cm/1" of soil.  Firm well and water in.

  Aftercare Keep moist  in summer and as dry as possible in winter. Mulch with a 5cm/2" layer of well rotted manure or compost in the Autumn or spring.   Remove any flower stalks but cutting them down as low as possible

  Harvesting Harvesting starts taking place from late March onwards  usually cropping 3-4 times throughout the summer. It is recommended that only a couple of stalks are harvested the 1st year after planting to ensure the crown has a chance to build up it's vigour. When harvesting, wait for the leaves to fully open before harvesting individual stalks,  then pull the stalks rather than cutting them. Always leave 3 or 4 stalks on the plant at any one time to carry on growing.  Never eat the leaves as these are poisonous.

Forcing Rhubarb -
this is done to get earlier, more tender stems. As soon as plants begin to show signs of growth, cover with a large container or box to exclude any light getting to the plant .  It should be ready for eating in about four weeks, about 4 weeks earlier than un-forced rhubarb.  Once harvested,  do not pick any more rhubarb from the forced plants and leave them to build up reserves for  next year.
  Propagation This is done by digging up the whole root ball and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces. Each piece is then re-planted as above. This should be done during the plants dormant period - usually between October and February. It is recommended that rhubarb plants be divided every 5 or 6 years to avoid the plants becoming over crowded - sooner if the plant starts to produce thin or weak stems.

Rhubarb Pests & Diseases

Pests Diseases
                       None Crown Rot - the crown rots and falls off easily. No cure. Lift and burn diseased plants.

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