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  How To Grow Rhubarb

PLANT TYPE: Perennial
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Rheum rhabarbarum
ZONE / HARDINESS: Hardy to all zones
MATURE PLANT SIZE: 24 to 48 inches high x 36 to 72 inches wide
LIGHT: Full Sun to partial shade
SOIL TYPE: All soils but best in fertile, well-drained soil
pH RANGE: 6.3 to 7.0
KNOWN PESTS: Seldom effected
KNOWN DISEASES: Seldom effected


Grow rhubarb in a spot such as the back row of your garden. Since it is a perennial, it will not be a part of regular garden tilling. Make sure to allow for plenty of sun.

Rhubarb enjoys a deep, fertile soil like asparagus, so many gardeners chose to plant their rhubarb and asparagus next to each other. It is helpful to add a fair amount of compost into your cultivated soil before planting rhubarb.

Don't plan on a harvest in the first year - Rhubarb need to establish strong roots in the first year. Once established. rhubarb is more like a weed - harder to kill than grow. There are many times I have come across many long forgotten plants in peoples yards.


Seed is best sown in autumn in a shaded cold frame. The seed can also be sown in spring in a cold frame. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter, planting them out in the spring.

Division in early spring or autumn. Divide up the rootstock making sure that there is at least one growth bud on each division. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.


Rhubarb is an extremely easy plant to grow and will reward you with fruit for years to come. Plant as soon as soil can be worked. Choose a sunny, well drained area for your rhubarb bed. Dig a hole several inches deep to accommodate root and space plants 18" apart. Add a generous amount of compost. Apply mulch to smother weeds and retain moisture. Sidedress with compost or fertilizer in midsummer. Break off flower stalks to encourage leaf stalk production. Roots can be divided and replanted in early spring of the third and subsequent years. Do not harvest the first year and harvest only stalks that are at least 1" thick during the second year. Stalks are best when harvested in the spring and early summer.


In order for the plant to become well established, leafstalks should not be harvested the first year and only a few the second year. From the third year on, rhubarb is harvested in late May and June. Stop when the plant begins to produce slender stalks, a sign that its reserves are low.

Never harvest more than one-half of the plant stalks. The stalks are most flavorful when fairly young, so harvest them soon after the leaf expands. Fresh rhubarb can be stored for two to four weeks at 32-36 degrees F and 95% relative humidity.

Rhubarb leaves may be added to your compost pile. While the leaves contain oxalic acid, this has no negative effect on the quality of the compost.


Stem only - raw or cooked. An acid taste, it is used as a fruit substitute, usually stewed with sugar and used in pies and jams. The juice strained from stewed rhubarb can add colour and flavour to a fruit punch. It is best not to eat large quantities of the stems because of their oxalic acid content. The leaves can be simmered in hot water to make an insecticide.


Rhubard leaves are toxic. The leaves contain high concentrations of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid can lock up certain minerals in the body, leading to nutritional deficiency. Cooking the plant will reduce the concentration of oxalic acid. Another report says that the leaves have the same concentration of oxalic acid in the stems as they do in the leaves and it is not the oxalic acid that makes them poisonous. It says that any toxic properties of the leaves is more likely to be due to the presence of glycosides. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.


Warning - do not eat the leaves of rhubarb - they contain oxalic acid which is poisonous to humans.

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