Rhubarb


Rhubarb's edible stalks are topped by attractive but inedible foliage.
Rhubarb's edible stalks are topped by attractive but inedible foliage.

Rhubarb can be planted for its looks alone, but then you'd be missing out on those tasty stalks, necessary for strawberry rhubarb pie. Rhubarb grows best in cool climates, but it can also be grown in warmer weather.

A hardy perennial, rhubarb grows 2 to 4 feet tall, with large, attractive leaves on strong stalks. The leaf stalks are red or green and grow up from a stout rhizome. The flowers are small and grow on top of a dense flower spike.

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Common Name: Rhubarb

Scientific Name: Rheum rhabarbarum

Hardiness: Hardy (may survive first frost)

In the next section, we'll show you how to grow rhubarb.

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Growing Rhubarb

You can't make
You can't make
without rhubarb.

Rhubarb is a very hardy plant that prefers cool weather. It can be grown in areas where the weather is warm or hot, but the leaf stalks become thin and spindly.

Although rhubarb can be grown from seed, the plants will not grow "true," meaning they won't be the same variety as the parent plant. For a close or exact copy of the parent plant, grow from the divisions separated from the parent stems. Buy divisions or divide your own plants in early spring.

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Rhubarb likes rich, well-worked soil that is high in organic matter and drains well. Plant the divisions 3 feet apart with the growing tips slightly below the soil surface. Keep the soil evenly moist. Keep weeds away and mulch around the plant, especially in winter.

To get earlier and longer leaf stalks, surround the plants with boxes in early spring but do not cover the plant from light. When flower stalks appear, remove them to keep the leaf stalks growing strongly. Divide the plant every three to four years.

Harvesting Rhubarb

You'll have to wait two to three years from the time of planting to the first real harvest. To harvest, twist the leaf stalk at the soil line; do not take more than a third of the leaves in any given year. Eat only the stalk, not the leaf.

Types of Rhubarb

  • MacDonald is brilliant red with tender skin.
  • Valentine has deep red stalks.
  • Victoria produces green stalks tinged with pink.
  • Canada Red is a smaller selection with red stalks.

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