How To Grow Rhubarb

Posted: January 15, 2015

Growing Guide for homegrown rhubarb crowns


Originally from Asia, this beautiful hardy perennial vegetable features large green leaves with bright edible red stalks. Rheum rhabarbarum has poisonous leaves but delicious rich and tart stalks that are used in desserts and jams. Plants can grow up to 4′ tall and wide.

Bed Preparation

While tolerable to most soils, rhubarb prefers fertile and well drained soil that is high in organic matter content. Choose planting site carefully as rhubarb is not easily moved once established. Rhubarb thrives in full sun but can also tolerate partial shade.


Plant rhubarb crowns in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Dig a deep and wide hole (12″ x 12″) and fill with compost and top soil. Plant the crown approximately 1″-2″ deep allowing 4′ between each plant.


Rhubarb is a heavy feeder and will only grow with lots of watering. Mulch generously with straw and compost to help maintain moisture and suppress weeds. After the first year of growth, fertilize lightly with a high nitrogen fertilizer just lightly as to not affect the roots. Dig and split plants every 3-4 years when they are dormant in early spring or fall.


Harvest stalks at the base of the plant in the second year of growth when they are between 8″-12″ tall by wiggling out stem from crown; cutting may bring disease. Be sure to discard leaves as they are poisonous. Leave at least two stalks unharvested each year to ensure continued growth. After the third year of growth, the harvest window is between 8-10 weeks long. The plant above ground will die back in winter.

Curing and Storage

Use rhubarb stalks very soon after harvest; they will keep in the refrigerator fresh in plastic bags for one week. They can also be cut into small pieces and frozen.


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11 responses to “How To Grow Rhubarb”

  1. Martha N Howell says:

    I would like to order rhubarb crowns to be delivered in early spring. Thanks!

    • Sow True Seed says:

      Hi Martha – the best thing to do is register to receive our catalog (you’ll get a 2016 on at the end of this year) and once you receive the catalog you can place a pre-order of spring rhubarb. We wont open up our pre-orders until the end of this season.

  2. Denise York says:

    Away until April 1st….can you ship then to NC at that time?
    I need 3 crowns….thanks

    • admin says:

      If you leave a comment stating this when you place the order then we can hold some back and ship April 1st, unless of course this is a premature April Fools prank!!

  3. Kimberly Godsey says:

    I always grew rhubarb when I lived in Illinois. I now live in NEW Alabama. Hardy nobody here even has heard of rhubarb! I truly miss making rhubarb jam! I don’t see a zone map with this article. Is rhubarb not a plant that can tolerate the Alabama heat? I would love to know if I could grow rhubarb here?

    • admin says:

      Hi Kimberly,

      Rhubarb certainly prefers cooler weather and the variety we sell at Sow True Seed are happier in Asheville NC and further north. However there are more heat tolerant cultivars that could work in Alabama heat.

      Good luck!

  4. Sarah says:

    I live in upstate NY – last frost date late May. Will my rhubarb crowns keep until I can plant them then?

  5. Ann M Lewis says:

    I have several crimson red rhubarb plants and the oldest is now has a main stalk with what looks like seeds at the top. Do I let it go to seed? or Do I need to
    stop it from going to seed now?
    Thank you for your help.

    • Chris Smith says:

      Hi Ann M Lewis – in the first couple of years of establishment I cut the flower stalks so that the plant will focus on root establishment. After that, there is no reason not to let it flower, although you’ll likely experience a reduction in stalk production that year.

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