How to plant rhubarb

Rheum rhabarbarum or Rheum x cultorum

Rhubarb is a perennial plant that has large leaves, whose petioles (the stems of leaves) are used as food. Although they taste sour, the stalks can be eaten in the same way as the celery stalks. However, they are mainly used in the manufacture of sweetened foods, such as the filling of pies, jellies, jams and other desserts. There are cultivars that have red petioles and others that have green petioles. Other species of rhubarb are used for medicinal purposes only and should not be used as food.


Rhubarb needs regions with a cold or mild climate for its cultivation, as it generally cannot withstand high temperatures. This plant needs to spend a period of time in temperatures below 5 ° C to break dormancy in winter. The requirement in days of low temperatures to break dormancy of plants varies depending on the cultivar.


Rhubarb grows best if it receives direct sunlight for at least a few hours daily, but can tolerate an environment with partial shade, as long as there is good light.


Cultivate in fertile, deep, well-drained soils, rich in organic matter and rich in nitrogen. This plant tolerates several types of soil, growing well even in heavy clayey soils. The ideal soil pH is 6 to 7.


Irrigate to keep the soil moist, but not soaked.


Planting is usually done by dividing healthy plants that are two years or older. The pieces of rhizomes, preferably already with buds, should be 2.5 cm deep, leaving only the buds visible. The plants can be spaced from 75 cm to 120 cm, depending on the size of the cultivar.

Planting can also be done by seeds, although the result is not always satisfactory. Sow in beds with rows spaced 30 cm apart, approximately 2.5 cm deep. When they germinate, leave the seedlings spaced 15 cm apart, cutting off the surplus.

Rhubarb can be grown in large pots (at least 35 cm in diameter).


Remove invasive plants that are competing for nutrients and resources, at least during the first months of plant growth each year.

To increase productivity, inflorescences can be cut as soon as they start to appear.

To obtain stems with a milder flavor, bleaching of the leaves can be done in late winter or early spring. For this, large pots or appropriate ceramic containers are placed, at least 45 cm high, so that the leaves sprout and grow deprived of light until harvest.


Leaf harvesting can be done in spring and early summer from the second year of planting, avoiding harvesting in the first year so that the plants can become more vigorous. In each harvest, one third to half the leaves can be removed, leaving the rest on the plant. If all the leaves are removed, the plant will take longer to recover and will show low productivity. Remove each leaf by detaching the stem at the base.

Only stalks (petioles) can be consumed, the leaf (the leaf blade) contains a lot of oxalic acid and also contains other toxic substances.

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