Rhubarb

Rhubarb is an attractive and very hardy perennial plant that yields delicious stems that can be eaten in a range of sweet and savoury dishes. Rhubarb is a relatively hassle free plant to grow and once established it will reward you with its delicious crop year after year.

Growing rhubarb:

Rhubarb needs an open and sunny location with moist but free draining soil. While rhubarb is hardy in the UK climate, the stems are susceptible to frost so you should avoid planting them in a frost pocket or in a particularly exposed spot.

Rhubarb can be grown from seed but it is more usual to plant rhubarb crowns. These crowns are planted while the plants are dormant between autumn and spring. Alternatively you can plant pot-grown rhubarb any time though you will have to be sure to provide the plant with plenty of water during dry periods.

First choose a permanent site for your rhubarb and prepare the ground with the addition of some well-rotted manure or a good quality organic compost. Spread out the roots attached to the crown and plant it so the tip of the crown is just visible above the soil.

Plants should be spaced 75-90cm apart, with 30 between rows if you are planting a number of rhubarb plants. While rhubarb is usually grown in the ground, it can also be grown in sixeable pots of at least 50cm in depth and diameter.

Slugs and snails can be a problem for young rhubarb plants so take measures to protect your plants from these pests. Reduce problems with aphids by introducing companion plants that attract predatory insects.

Rhubarb does not like competition so you should be sure to keep the plants free of weeds. A good mulch of a good quality compost will help you with this but you must make sure not to cover the crown or it will rot. Water rhubarb regularly during periods of drought until the autumn.

You should refrain from picking rhubarb in the first year after planting as doing so can make the plants weaker. Allow it to become established before you take your first harvest. When your plant is established you can take some of the stems, perhaps a third or half of them, leaving some to continue in active growth. To remove the stems, hold them at the base and ease them out of the ground. Try to avoid snapping it off. Harvest in the spring and stop by June at the latest in order to avoid over-cropping.

At the end of the growing season, remove the dead leaves to expose the rhubarb crown to frost as this will ensure that you will get a good number of stems the following year. If you want earlier and more tender stems then you can force your crop by covering it and cutting out light from late winter.

Why grow rhubarb in the garden?

Rhubarb gives visual interest in the garden as well as a food crop. It can be used to make a wide range of sweet and savoury dishes and is full of beneficial vitamins.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Rheum rhabarbarum