How Do You Plant and Maintain Rhubarb?

How do you plant and maintain Rhubarb? What kind of soil do they like? Sun or shade?

Hardiness Zone: 5b

Carol from Nebraska (Southern)




You can start rhubarb from seed, from potted plants, or from root divisions that contain one or more buds.

Site Selection:

  • Select a site away from annual vegetables (near berry patches, etc.) where plants will be safe from being accidentally dug up.

  • The location should receive sun at least half of the day (more is better) and consist of average to rich, well-drained soil.

  • Avoid low areas prone to frost or standing water and stay clear of trees that will continue to grow and eventually overshadow the rhubarb.


  • Three plants are an adequate number of plants for most gardens.

  • In the spring, plant crowns (buds up) 1 1/2 feet deep in a 3-foot-wide bed, making sure holes are wide enough to accommodate spreading roots. Cover with soil and water thoroughly.


  • Apply a light fertilizer in the spring and cover new growth with 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch.

  • Flower stalks should be cut off and removed as they appear throughout the growing season.

  • Watch for signs of wilt and root rot during the season.

  • Mulch plants heavily to prepare them for winter after foliage dies back in the fall.

  • Dig up and divide plants when they start to produce thin stalks.


  • Rhubarb should not he harvested until the second season after planting and then only for 1 to 2 weeks.

  • Harvesting can be increased to 1 to 2 months by the third season and after that, plants can be harvested as often as you prefer.

  • Select stalks that are thick with well-developed leaves.

  • To harvest, simply twist stalks until they break from the plant or cut them off to the desired length with a knife.

  • Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and should not be used (compost them).

  • Stalks can be blanched by surrounding sprouting plants with an open-ended box about 2' wide and 2' to 3' tall. Blanched stalks will grow longer and be ready a week earlier than usual.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.

March 14, 20060 found this helpful

Hi Carol,

When you plant Rhubarb, plant it in full sun after you work the soil with either compost or a good organic fertilizer. It will come back year after year, especially if you work into the soil, compost or fertilizer every spring. When harvesting the Rhubarb, take the very colorful leaves off the stalk and lay then under the plant. This is a great way to keep feeding the plant all summer.

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March 31, 20060 found this helpful


Ragteller is right, full sun, lots of compost - any cow manure in in southern Nebraska? Use that after the crop is finished in the fall. I cover my patch with it & then leaves on top of that in in fall.

Don't use the rhubarb the first year after planting new plants or transplants, allow to establish. ALWAYS put the cut leaves back around the plants after PULLING up the stock from the ground. Some think you should cut the stock off from the plant. Pull it up from the ground, only one stock at a time, and don't pull all from one plant. It will come away from the plant very easily, should look like a stock of celery (curved) but a pale pink...

Have had ours for over 30 years now.


D. in N. S., Canada

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April 11, 20060 found this helpful

According to Ellen's response...the rhubarb will never come up. The hole, yes, should be about 1.5 feet deep but the crown should be planted so that it will only be between 1 and 4 inches below the surface of the soil. I prefer 1 inch.

When dividing a rhubarb the roots will be quite long...that even a 1.5 foot hole might not be deep enough. I remember my grandpa digging out some of his rhubarb plant for me and he placed the pieces in a large garbage bag to transport them here.

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July 5, 20070 found this helpful

New plants, something is eating holes in the leaves and not being very wise with rhubarb, my first try. Help

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