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Growing Rhubarb

(Rheum rhabarbarum)

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
                P P    

(Best months for planting Rhubarb in Australia - temperate regions)

P = Plant direct in garden where they are to grow.

  • Easy to grow. Plant pieces of rhizome or roots 8 - 10 cm (3 - 4 in.) deep. Best planted at soil temperatures between 5°C and 20°C. (Show °F/in)
  • Space plants: 90 cm apart
  • Harvest in approximately 1 years. You will have a stronger plant if you leave it for about a year before using..
  • Compatible with (can grow in same bed): Brassicas (Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, etc)
  • Young rhubarb

Rhubarb is easy to grow in cool climates and is a perennial. Rhubarb can be left in the ground and will return a crop for many years, at least 10 to 15 years (We have one that is more than 20 yrs old). Rhubarb is quite a hardy crop but the crown will rot if in heavy wet clay soils. It can cope with dry periods. Plant in good soil and remove as many weeds as possible. Do not disturb rhubarb roots when cultivating round the plant. Better in cooler climates, but can be grown in shady areas of warm climates. You can lift and divide rhubarb to make more plants . It is best to do this when the plant is dormant ( or at least less actively growing) in winter or late autumn. It is best to wait until a plant is about 5 years old before dividing the crown but it can be moved at any age. Some of the root structure will be damaged when lifting it, so stalk production will not be so good for a few months. If you have mild winters and your rhubarb is still producing new stalks, you can continue to pick it. Although rhubarb is used in desserts and jams, it is considered a vegetable because the stalks are used not the fruit.

NB Do not eat the leaves or roots as they contain oxalic acid which is poisonous. They should not be fed to poultry or stock either.

Remove flower stalks as they appear as the plant will stop producing leaf stalks when flowering.

Rhubarb can be 'forced' by covering dormant crowns with clay pots or a cloche in early spring.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Rhubarb

Pick stems about the thickness of your finger. Large stems will have tough 'strings' down the length of them.
Use in pies, crumbles, fools and jams. Rhubarb goes well with orange.
Will usually need sweetener.

Your comments and tips

26 Aug 14, mary luscombe (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
What is needed to strengthen rhubarb shoots which have all gone spindly and weak
30 Jul 14, Graham (Australia - temperate climate)
Can rhubarb be grown in shade?
12 Aug 14, Chris (Australia - cool/mountain climate)
They like morning sun, but will grow ok in light shade. The best place is with morning sun and afternoon shade.
26 Jul 14, norma (Australia - temperate climate)
what fertilizer do you recommend to keep the rhubarb red. I bought a plant that was red but it turned green
17 Jun 14, Ruth (Australia - temperate climate)
The stems on our plants are very short and the leaves are huge, How can we correct this.
15 Jun 14, david (Australia - temperate climate)
can you grow rhubarb in a garbage tin size pot?
09 Jun 14, Tony (Australia - temperate climate)
I was given a couple of plants and am on sandy soil (like beach sand). I have had a great crop by using dynamic lifter in the hole and spread around the plant. BTW, I like the thicker stalks for flavour and textrure.
19 May 14, Kylie (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Can rhubarb be grown in sandy soils, in beachside suburbs?.
21 Apr 14, ian (Australia - temperate climate)
What happens to the plant if you only harvest the real big stalks on the bush in the first year?I have a bush that has very healthy and large stems in the centre of the bush.
04 May 14, Stewart (Australia - temperate climate)
That should be fine Ian. The main idea is to keep enough foliage on the plant so as to keep up good continuous growth. Taking the odd big stem now and then should not effect this.
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This planting guide is a general reference intended for home gardeners. We recommend that you take into account your local conditions in making planting decisions. Gardenate is not a farming or commercial advisory service. For specific advice, please contact your local plant suppliers, gardening groups, or agricultural department. The information on this site is presented in good faith, but we take no responsibility as to the accuracy of the information provided.

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