How to Care for Rhubarb


Rhubarb has a quirky name and nature. The name not only describes the plant but also has another meaning---it's slang for a heated quarrel or a brawl. As for its nature, rhubarb is a vegetable that's often used as a fruit, and it's a perennial, meaning it keeps coming back to your garden year after year.

Step 1

Buy rhubarb crowns or divide the ones in your garden when you first see buds in the early spring. Use a sharp knife to divide them, and make sure each part has a bud or two and a couple of inches of roots. Place in the ground immediately after dividing.

Step 2

Find a location in full sun or partial shade. Plant rhubarb crowns on raised beds in soil fortified with compost or rotted manure. These supplements will help ensure adequate drainage so the crowns don't rot. Plant 4 to 5 inches deep and at least 3 feet apart to avoid crowding.

Step 3

Apply a complete fertilizer when you plant in spring and again in late autumn. Put it around the plant but not touching the crown. Water enough to keep the soil moist, but don't flood the plants.

Step 4

Wait until the second year to harvest your rhubarb. From late spring into summer, harvest stems that are at least an inch wide by cutting them off at ground level.
 Leave smaller stems to help growth the following year.

Tips and Warnings

  • Only eat rhubarb stems---not the foliage. The leaves contain poisonous oxalic acid.

Things You'll Need

  • Rhubarb crowns
  • Sharp knife


  • Grow rhubarb
  • Care for rhubarb

Who Can Help

  • Information about rhubarb
  • Growing rhubarb
Keywords: Grow rhubarb, Care for rhubarb, Propagate rhubarb

About this Author

Barbara Dunlap is a freelance writer in Oregon. She was a garden editor at "The San Francisco Chronicle" and she currently specializes in travel and active lifestyle topics like golf and fitness. She received a master's degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has been a Knight Foundation Fellow.