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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

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.
14 Apr 14, john (Australia - arid climate)
I put a rhubarb plant in this summer in a pot the leaves start to wither and the plant is still green should it be planted in the grown
10 Apr 14, jan (Australia - temperate climate)
I have brought 3 & they have all died??
13 Mar 14, Louise (Australia - temperate climate)
I am leaving for the winter(live coastal Tassie). Do I need to do anything to my healthy rhubarb before I leave later this month?
07 Mar 14, (Australia - cool/mountain climate)
This morning I found all the stema of one plant limp and lying on the soil and the leaves, were discoloured and looking sick. I have 2 other crowns in the same area and despite applying liquid fertilisers and solid manures they have not produced any significant growth. There is a fig tree about 2 metre away.
24 Mar 14, Charlie (Australia - temperate climate)
I have 6 plants in a very similar condition & treated them similarly to you. They used to grow quite strongly in the past. I have today dug them up to plant in another part of the garden. This will be just trial & error at this stage. Will be interesting to see if it makes any difference. One thing I did find when digging the area was 4 curl grubs, but I don't think there were enough to cause the problem?
03 Mar 14, Deb Hallam (Australia - temperate climate)
I cook Rhubarb with a banana sometimes counteracts the tartness and lessens the need to add sugar. .
23 Jan 14, robin (Australia - temperate climate)
try cooking rhubarb with golden syrup and a bit of vanilla essence and of course some sugar but no where near as much if cooked without golden syrup. it takes the bite out.
12 Jan 14, Deb (Australia - temperate climate)
I planted 2 rhubarb crowns, 1 died and the other has grown well but the stalks are still green while the leaves are now dying. Can you pick and eat the green stalks before the whole thing dies.
19 Jan 14, Cynthia (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
The variety of yr rhubarb will dictate that. Some produce stems that remain green in colour ie do not turn red. Check your variety for its characteristics.
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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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