Rhubarb is an attractive, easy to grow vegetable that will reliably produce up to ten years or more from a single planting. It is grown for its delicious, celery like stalks, which are cooked and often used more like a fruit than a vegetable.
Stalks of rhubarb varieties vary in flavor from sweet to quite tart, while their color varies from a pretty crimson red to cherry red. Stalks of some varieties are red on the outside, green on the inside; others are a deep red throughout. When you harvest rhubarb stalks, always remove the attached leaves, as they are poisonous and should never be eaten. Discard the leaves or add them to your compost pile.
Rhubarb is a long lived perennial grown from divisions. Plant it in a sunny, out of the way spot or even at the back of a colorful flower bed, where you will not damage it accidentally while preparing a site for your vegetable garden in spring.
Rhubarb can be successfully harvested in its second year, a few stalks at a time, and all subsequent years. The more stalks you harvest, the more the plant will yield. The 6 ft. tall, white flowers should be cut off before they open to help target the plant’s energy to its flavorful stalks.
How to Plant Rhubarb and Aftercare
Guidelines for Planting
- In spring, dig a two foot deep, 3 feet wide hole. Refill hole to 2 inches from top with 4 to 5 inch layers of soil, compost and manure.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of bone meal over site. Spread crown roots out in hole. Fill with soil mixture, covering crown with 1 to 2 inches of soil.
- Gently firm soil and water thoroughly. When leaves appear, mulch with compost to help keep moisture in the soil.
- Water whenever the soil begins to dry out. Feed in mid-summer and in early fall with a 1 inch layer of well rotted manure.Cut flower stalks off as they appear. To harvest stalks, twist them off or cut with a sharp knife. Be careful not to cut the crown.
- Never harvest more than four rhubarb stalks from established plants at a time. Harvesting any more weakens the plant.
- Established rhubarb plants that grow slowly and produce spindly stalks are usually crowded or in need of fertilizing. Divide plants that are crowded in spring. Fertilize all plants with 2 inches of well rotted manure.
- Root rot can pose a problem for rhubarb in poorly drained sites. When planting, dig deeply and add plenty of organic matter to ensure good drainage.
- Remember when buying rhubarb plants, look for healthy plants with big crowns with two to four large buds. Look for thick, fleshy roots. Avoid crowns with broken, spindly or shriveled roots. Do not buy those with soft or blackened areas that indicate rot.