Friday, April 30, 2021


By Cherie Luke

Rheum rhabarbarum, commonly know as rhubarb, originated in China and the Himalayas. It is a true harbinger of spring! Botanically it is a vegetable because we eat its stems and not its fruit, but it is used like a fruit in pies, tarts, crisps, and even in wine making. 

Rhubarb crowns are best planted in early spring or late fall in well drained soil with plenty of organic matter. In a sunny location in your yard, dig a hole so the crown buds are 2-3 inches below the soil surface. Rhubarb plants need plenty of space to grow, so plant them 4-6 feet apart. 

Rhubarb emerging in spring

Mulch plants with compost to provide nutrients and to retain moisture during the summer. Keep your rhubarb patch free of weeds so it will not likely be disturbed by diseases or insects. The first year you should let the rhubarb grow without harvesting any of the stalks so your plants can become established. The second year, if the plants show vigorous growth, you can harvest a light crop. By the third year you can harvest most of the stalks. 

The leaves of rhubarb contain the toxin oxalic acid and should be kept out of reach of children and grazing animals. The leaves can be composted without any danger. Rhubarb can live for 15 years or more with little attention but will benefit from a top dressing of compost or rotted manure in fall, and also by occasionally dividing the roots. If seeds stalks appear they should be removed so the plants can focus their energy elsewhere. 

Rhubarb requires two months of freezing temperatures to break their rest period. Rhubarb like a long cool spring, which makes it an ideal plant for mountain gardens. It is hardy in zones 3-8. 

CSU has a short video on how to harvest your rhubarb. #rhubarb

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