Tips for Growing and Harvesting Rhubarb

It’s that time of year.  Rhubarb!!

Last week I shared my super delicious rhubarb bars with you.  If you haven’t checked those out, I HIGHLY recommend you do.  Mark used to poo-poo on my love of rhubarb until I made these bars for him.  (Yes, they are THAT good!)

But back to growing rhubarb, this is prime time for rhubarb plants to produce.

I currently have one plant that I’m able to harvest from but I successfully started 5 plants from seed gifted to me by an area gardener last fall  By next summer, I will have more than enough to keep us in rhubarb.

A bit of information about rhubarb.

  1. The plant is a perennial in zones 2b through 7
  2. There are some varieties that tolerate the warmer zones (zone 6 & 7)  such as Canada Red, Cherry Red, Crimson Red, MacDonald, Strawberry, Valentine.
  3. For zone 8, I’ve read that Valentine works as an annual and should be planted during autumn for a winter to spring harvest.
  4. The stalks are either green or red, my grandma swears that the best tasting rhubarb is red but you can be the judge.
    • Red – Cherry Red, Valentine, Crimson Red, Canada Red, MacDonald, Strawberry, Valentine
    • Green – Victoria
  5. Newly planted rhubarb takes at least 1 year to produce well but it is best to give it 2 before harvesting.
  6. Rhubarb can be grown from seed or from dividing the root crown.
  7. Rhubarb is a heavy feeder so be sure to top dress your plants with composted manure yearly.

Tips for Harvesting Rhubarb

  1. Never Cut Stalks – if you cut the stalks, your plant does not know that a stalk is gone and it will slow and eventually stop production.
  2. Pull / Twist Method – always pull a stalk by grabbing the one you are harvesting close to the base of the plant. Twist and pull until the stalk comes from the plant.
  3. Don’t Overharvest – you should only pick a maximum of 1/3 of the plant at a time.  Your rhubarb needs foliage to gather energy to produce more stalks.

What to do if Your Rhubarb Flowers?

Bravo!!  Your plant is healthy!!  Now you have some decisions to make.

  1.  Save Seed & Stop Harvesting- if you’d like to start more rhubarb plants, you’ll want to let your rhubarb flower remain on the plant and go through the cycle until you get to seed on the flower head.  If you opt to do this, DO NOT HARVEST RHUBARB FROM THAT PLANT.  Sorry for yelling, but your seed needs the energy and your rhubarb will taste woody.  You will not be able to actually collect your seed until fall time, (when they are properly dried out).  It’s a year investment and sacrifice for an unlimited amount of rhubarb growing potential
  2. Cut Flower & Keep Harvesting- if you’d like to harvest your rhubarb and do not want to collect seed to start new plants, simply cut your flower off at the base and continue to enjoy your rhubarb throughout the growing season.

I may start one more rhubarb plant and share with you how to start from seed if I do that.  My plant at our new house is only 3 years old and it hasn’t produced a seed stalk, but when it does, I’ll update.

That’s it for today folks!

Happy Rhubarb Growing!!

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