How To Plant Rhubarb From Seed [ Full Guide ]

Rhubarb is a perennial plant that is grown for its tart-flavored stalks, which are commonly used in pies, jams, and other culinary delights. While rhubarb is typically propagated through division of crowns, it is also possible to grow it from seeds. Planting rhubarb from seed can be a rewarding and economical way to expand your garden. This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the essential steps and considerations to successfully grow rhubarb from seed.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Rhubarb From Seed

  1. Understanding Rhubarb Seeds: Characteristics and Varieties
  2. Selecting the Right Location for Rhubarb Seed Planting
  3. Preparing the Soil for Rhubarb Seed Planting
  4. When to Plant Rhubarb Seeds: Optimal Growing Conditions
  5. Conclusion

Understanding Rhubarb Seeds: Characteristics And Varieties

Rhubarb seeds are the result of flowering in mature rhubarb plants. It’s worth noting that not all rhubarb plants will produce seeds, as some varieties are male and do not bear seeds. When selecting rhubarb seeds for planting, consider choosing a variety that is well-suited to your climate and has desirable traits such as disease resistance and vigorous growth.

Popular rhubarb seed varieties include:

  • Victoria: Known for its high yields and deep red stalks, Victoria is a popular variety for both commercial and home gardeners.
  • Canada Red: This variety produces vibrant red stalks and has excellent disease resistance.
  • German Wine: With green and red speckled stalks, this variety is prized for its unique appearance and robust flavor.

When purchasing rhubarb seeds, ensure that they are from a reputable source and are viable for planting. It’s essential to verify the viability of the seeds, as rhubarb seeds have a shorter shelf life compared to other seeds. Fresh seeds will have a higher germination rate, improving the success of your planting efforts.

Selecting The Right Location For Rhubarb Seed Planting

Rhubarb thrives in well-draining, fertile soil and requires ample sunlight to flourish. When selecting a location for planting rhubarb from seed, consider the following factors:

  1. Sunlight: Choose a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Adequate sunlight is crucial for the development of healthy stalks and robust plants.
  2. Soil Drainage: Rhubarb plants are susceptible to root rot in waterlogged soil. Select a planting site with well-draining soil to prevent excess water retention around the roots.
  3. Space Availability: Ensure that the chosen location provides ample space for the rhubarb plants to spread out as they mature. Rhubarb plants can reach substantial sizes, and adequate spacing will facilitate optimal growth.

In addition to these factors, consider the proximity to other plants and structures. Avoid planting rhubarb near trees or shrubs with aggressive root systems, as they can compete for resources and inhibit the growth of your rhubarb plants. Similarly, planting rhubarb in the vicinity of structures such as buildings or fences should allow for sufficient air circulation and sunlight exposure.

Preparing The Soil For Rhubarb Seed Planting

Proper soil preparation is critical for the successful establishment of rhubarb plants from seed. Follow these steps to ensure that the soil is well-suited for rhubarb cultivation:

  1. Soil Testing: Conduct a soil test to assess the pH and nutrient levels of the planting site. Rhubarb thrives in slightly acidic soil with a pH range of 6.0-6.8. If the soil pH is outside this range, amendments may be necessary to achieve optimal growing conditions.
  2. Amending the Soil: Based on the results of the soil test, amend the soil with organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve its texture and nutrient content. Incorporate the amendments to a depth of at least 12 inches to ensure that the soil is enriched throughout the root zone.
  3. Fertilization: While rhubarb is a relatively low-maintenance plant, incorporating a balanced fertilizer into the soil prior to planting can provide essential nutrients for initial growth. Choose a fertilizer with a balanced N-P-K ratio, and follow the application rates recommended for rhubarb cultivation.

By thoroughly preparing the soil, you can create an optimal environment for the germination and subsequent growth of rhubarb seeds. Healthy soil will promote strong root development and facilitate the establishment of vigorous rhubarb plants.

When To Plant Rhubarb Seeds: Optimal Growing Conditions

The timing of planting rhubarb seeds is crucial for the successful establishment of seedlings. Rhubarb seeds should be planted in the early spring, as soon as the soil is workable and the risk of frost has passed. In regions with milder winters, where the soil may not freeze deeply, planting can occur as early as late February to early March. This timing allows the seeds to germinate and establish themselves during the favorable growing conditions of spring and early summer.

Before planting the rhubarb seeds, conduct a thorough assessment of the weather conditions in your region. Consider both the average last frost date and the soil temperature to determine the optimal timing for planting. Additionally, monitor the long-range weather forecasts to avoid potential late-season frost events that could harm the young seedlings.

To plant the seeds, create furrows in the prepared soil that are approximately half an inch deep. Space the furrows at least 12-18 inches apart to provide ample room for the mature rhubarb plants. Sow the seeds at a depth of approximately half an inch, and cover them lightly with soil. Water the planting area gently to ensure that the soil is adequately moist but not waterlogged.

As the seeds germinate and the seedlings emerge, monitor the soil moisture levels to support their growth. Adequate moisture is essential for the establishment of healthy seedlings, but be cautious not to overwater, as excessive moisture can lead to fungal diseases and root rot in young plants.

Growing rhubarb from seed can be a fulfilling and rewarding endeavor for gardeners. By selecting suitable varieties, preparing the soil diligently, and timing the planting correctly, you can establish a thriving rhubarb patch from seeds. Remember to provide ongoing care for the seedlings as they develop, including regular watering, mulching, and vigilant pest management. With patience and dedication, you can look forward to bountiful rhubarb harvests for years to come.

Tips For Germinating Rhubarb Seeds Successfully

Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) is a perennial vegetable that is commonly grown for its edible stalks. While many gardeners propagate rhubarb through division, it is also possible to grow it from seeds. Starting rhubarb from seed allows you to experiment with different varieties and offers a more cost-effective option than buying plants or divisions.

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Germinating rhubarb seeds can be a bit challenging and may require some specific conditions to achieve good results. Here are some tips to increase your chances of successful germination:

  1. Choose Fresh Seeds: It is vital to start with fresh seeds to ensure higher germination rates. Rhubarb seeds are not viable for long periods, and it is best to use fresh seeds obtained from a reliable source.

  2. Cold Stratification: Rhubarb seeds require a period of cold stratification to break their dormancy and stimulate germination. Start by placing the seeds in a damp paper towel or an airtight bag with some damp vermiculite or peat moss. Then, refrigerate them for 4 to 8 weeks at a temperature of around 40°F (4°C). This mimics the natural winter conditions that rhubarb seeds experience outdoors.

  3. Sow the Seeds Indoors: Once the cold stratification period is complete, it’s time to sow the seeds indoors. Fill seed trays or pots with a seed starting mix that is well-draining and nutrient-rich. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) deep and cover them lightly with soil.

  4. Provide Optimal Temperature: Rhubarb seeds germinate best at temperatures between 60°F and 75°F (15°C – 24°C). To maintain the ideal temperature, use a seedling heat mat or place the seed trays in a warm location, such as near a radiator or on top of the refrigerator. Avoid exposing the seeds to direct sunlight as it may cause them to dry out.

  5. Maintain Moisture Levels: Rhubarb seeds require consistent moisture for successful germination. Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. To maintain moisture levels, consider covering the seed trays with a plastic dome or using a misting bottle to provide a fine mist of water.

  6. Be Patient: Rhubarb seeds can be slow to germinate, often taking 2 to 4 weeks or even longer. It’s essential to be patient and not give up too soon. Keep the seed trays consistently moist and maintain the optimal temperature until the seedlings emerge.

Caring For Young Rhubarb Seedlings

Once your rhubarb seeds have successfully germinated and the seedlings have emerged, it’s crucial to provide them with proper care to ensure healthy growth. Here are some tips for caring for young rhubarb seedlings:

  1. Provide Ample Light: Place the seed trays in a location that receives bright, indirect light. Ideally, the seedlings should receive at least 12 to 16 hours of light per day. If you don’t have access to sufficient natural light, supplement it with fluorescent or LED grow lights placed 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) above the seedlings.

  2. Maintain Optimal Temperature: Once the seedlings have emerged, gradually decrease the temperature to around 50°F to 60°F (10°C – 15°C) to encourage sturdy growth. This reduction in temperature mimics spring-like conditions and helps the seedlings adjust before transplanting them outdoors.

  3. Thin out seedlings: If multiple seedlings have sprouted in the same cell or pot, it is essential to thin them out. Select the healthiest and strongest seedling and carefully remove the others by cutting them at the base. Overcrowding can lead to competition for resources and weak growth.

  4. Water Properly: Water the seedlings when the top inch (2.5 cm) of the soil feels dry. Use a watering can or a gentle spray bottle to water the seedlings from below, at the base of the plants, to avoid wetting the foliage. Overwatering can lead to fungal diseases, so it’s crucial not to let the seedlings sit in overly saturated soil.

  5. Maintain Air Circulation: Adequate air circulation is essential to prevent damping-off disease, a fungal infection that can affect young seedlings. Avoid overcrowding the seed trays and provide some ventilation by opening a window or using a small fan set on low.

Transplanting Rhubarb Seedlings Into The Garden

Once your rhubarb seedlings have grown to a suitable size, it’s time to transplant them into the garden. Here are the steps to follow for successful transplantation:

  1. Choose the Right Location: Rhubarb thrives in a sunny spot with well-draining soil. Select a location in your garden that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. The soil should be fertile and loamy, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8. Avoid areas prone to standing water or heavy clay soil as it can lead to root rot.

  2. Prepare the Soil: Before transplanting the seedlings, prepare the soil by loosening it to a depth of at least 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm). Remove any rocks, weeds, or debris from the planting area. Incorporate organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve the soil’s nutrient content and drainage.

  3. Spacing: When transplanting rhubarb, it is crucial to provide enough space between plants to allow for proper growth and airflow. Plant the seedlings 3 to 4 feet (90 to 120 cm) apart to give them adequate room to develop their large leafy stalks.

  4. Transplant Carefully: Gently lift the seedlings from their containers, taking care not to damage the roots. Dig a hole in the prepared soil that is slightly larger than the root ball of the seedling. Place the seedling in the hole, making sure the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Fill the hole with soil, firming it gently around the seedling to eliminate any air pockets.

  5. Water Thoroughly: After transplanting, water the seedlings thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots. Provide enough water so that the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil remains moist. Avoid overwatering, which can lead to rotting of the roots. After the initial watering, continue to water the plants regularly, ensuring they receive about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of water per week.

Fertilizing Rhubarb Plants For Optimal Growth

Proper fertilization is essential for the vigorous growth of rhubarb plants. Although rhubarb is a heavy feeder, it is essential to provide the right balance of nutrients. Here are some tips for fertilizing rhubarb plants:

  1. Initial Fertilization: Incorporate a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 blend, into the soil at planting time. Apply 2 to 4 pounds (0.9 to 1.8 kg) per 100 square feet (9 square meters) of garden space. Work the fertilizer into the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) before planting the seedlings.

  2. Annual Fertilization: Rhubarb plants benefit from an annual top-dressing of fertilizer to ensure continued growth and productivity. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring before new growth appears. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates, as they may vary depending on the brand.

  3. Avoid Excessive Nitrogen: While rhubarb requires nitrogen for leafy growth, too much nitrogen can lead to lush foliage at the expense of stalk production. Avoid using high-nitrogen fertilizers or excessive amounts of fresh manure, as they can negatively affect the overall quality and yield of rhubarb.

  4. Monitor Nutrient Deficiencies: Observe your rhubarb plants for any signs of nutrient deficiencies. Common deficiencies include yellowing leaves (indicating a lack of nitrogen) or stunted growth (indicating a lack of phosphorus). If deficiencies are evident, consider using organic fertilizers specific to the nutrient in question or consult a local extension office for appropriate nutrient recommendations.

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Watering Needs For Rhubarb Plants

Proper watering is crucial for the health and growth of rhubarb plants. While they prefer consistently moist soil, overwatering can lead to root rot and other issues. Here are some watering tips for rhubarb plants:

  1. Establishment Period: During the first few weeks after transplanting, it’s essential to keep the soil consistently moist. Water the plants regularly, providing enough moisture to keep the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil evenly moist. Mulching around the plants can help conserve moisture and reduce the frequency of watering.

  2. Regular Watering: Once the plants are established, continue to water them regularly to prevent the soil from drying out. Provide about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of water per week, either through rainfall or supplemental irrigation. Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to deliver water directly to the root zone and reduce evaporation.

  3. Avoid Overwatering: While rhubarb prefers moist soil, it’s crucial not to overwater. Overly saturated soil can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases. As a general rule, water when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry. Use your fingers to check the moisture level or use a moisture meter to gauge the soil’s moisture content.

  4. Time Watering Properly: Watering in the morning is optimal for rhubarb plants. It allows the foliage to dry quickly, reducing the risk of fungal diseases. Avoid watering in the late afternoon or evening, as the plants may remain wet overnight, making them prone to diseases.

Growing rhubarb from seed can be a rewarding endeavor, allowing you to enjoy a wider range of varieties and save money compared to buying plants. By following the tips mentioned in this article, you can successfully germinate rhubarb seeds, care for young seedlings, transplant them into the garden, and provide proper fertilization and watering. With patience and proper care, you can look forward to a bountiful harvest of this wonderful perennial vegetable.

Protecting Rhubarb Seedlings From Pests And Diseases

Rhubarb is a versatile and delicious perennial vegetable that is widely grown for its tangy stalks. While many gardeners prefer to propagate rhubarb from divisions or crowns, it is also possible to grow rhubarb from seed, which allows for a wider variety selection.

  1. Start seeds indoors: Begin the rhubarb seed planting process by starting the seeds indoors. This will give the seedlings a head start in a protected environment. Fill seed trays or pots with a high-quality seed starting mix, and sow the rhubarb seeds about half an inch deep, spacing them 1-2 inches apart. Keep the soil moist and place the trays or pots in a warm location with good sunlight.

  2. Provide adequate ventilation: Once the seeds have germinated and the seedlings have emerged, it’s essential to provide them with adequate ventilation. Good air circulation helps prevent the buildup of moisture, reducing the risk of fungal diseases. Consider using a small fan or opening a nearby window to provide a gentle breeze.

  3. Monitor for pests: Seedlings are particularly vulnerable to pests, such as aphids and slugs. Inspect the plants regularly and promptly remove any pests you may find. In the case of aphids, a simple solution of water and mild soap can be applied to eliminate them. Placing copper slug tape around the base of the seedlings can deter slugs and snails from reaching the plants.

  4. Avoid overhead watering: Watering rhubarb seedlings from above can increase the risk of fungal diseases. Instead, water the plants at ground level, directly at the base, to keep the foliage dry as much as possible. Using a soaker hose or drip irrigation system can be an efficient method of watering without wetting the leaves.

  5. Thin out seedlings: As the seedlings grow, they will need adequate space to develop properly. Thin them out by removing the weaker seedlings, allowing the remaining ones to have enough room for their roots to establish. This will result in stronger, healthier plants.

When To Harvest Rhubarb From Seed-Planted Plants

  1. Patience is key: Growing rhubarb from seed requires patience, as it takes a few years for the plants to establish themselves fully. Resist the temptation to harvest the plants in the first year to allow them to develop a robust root system, which will ensure a more abundant and sustainable harvest in the future.

  2. Harvesting in the second year: In the second year, you can start harvesting a few stalks, but it’s important to only take a limited amount. Select only the largest and healthiest stalks, gently pulling them away from the base of the plant. Do not remove more than one-third of the total stalks at any given time to allow the plant to continue growing and storing energy for future growth.

  3. Harvesting in subsequent years: From the third year onwards, you can harvest rhubarb more liberally. As before, select the largest and healthiest stalks, but you can harvest up to half of the stalks at a time. Again, avoid removing more than half of the total stalks to ensure the plant’s vitality and long-term productivity.

  4. Harvesting techniques: To harvest rhubarb, hold the base of the stalk close to the crown and then gently twist and pull it away. Avoid cutting the stalks, as this can introduce diseases and prevent the remaining stalks from regrowing properly.

  5. End of the harvest season: As the growing season comes to an end, usually in late summer or early fall, it’s a good practice to stop harvesting rhubarb. This allows the plants to store energy for winter dormancy and helps promote healthier growth in the following year.

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Storing And Preserving Rhubarb Harvest

  1. Chilling the stalks: If you do not plan to use the harvested rhubarb immediately, it is essential to chill the stalks as soon as possible to maintain their freshness and flavor. Rinse the stalks thoroughly, pat them dry, and wrap them in a damp paper towel before placing them in a plastic bag. Store the bag in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper drawer, where they can stay fresh for up to two weeks.

  2. Freezing rhubarb: Rhubarb can also be preserved by freezing. Begin by washing the stalks and cutting them into small pieces. Blanch the pieces in boiling water for about a minute and then transfer them immediately to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain the blanched rhubarb and pack it into airtight freezer bags or containers. Label the containers with the date and place them in the freezer, where they will remain usable for up to a year.

  3. Canning rhubarb: Another option for preserving rhubarb is through canning. Prepare the rhubarb by washing and cutting it into appropriate sizes. Fill clean canning jars with the rhubarb pieces, leaving a half-inch of headspace. Make a simple syrup by combining water and sugar in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Pour the hot syrup into the jars, leaving the appropriate headspace, and remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars, secure the lids, and process the jars in a boiling water bath according to recommended canning guidelines.

  4. Using dehydrators: Alternatively, you can dry rhubarb using a food dehydrator. Clean and cut the rhubarb into thin, even slices. Arrange the slices on the dehydrator trays, making sure they don’t overlap. Set the dehydrator temperature to around 125°F (52°C) and allow the rhubarb to dry for several hours, or until it becomes brittle. Once dry, store the rhubarb in airtight containers in a cool, dark place.

Troubleshooting Common Issues With Rhubarb Seed Planting

  1. Damping off: Damping off is a common fungal disease that affects young seedlings. To prevent damping off, it is crucial to use well-draining soil and avoid overwatering. Additionally, provide good air circulation to inhibit fungal growth. If damping off occurs, remove the affected seedlings and adjust watering practices to prevent further spreading.

  2. Weed competition: Weeds can compete with rhubarb seedlings for water, nutrients, and sunlight, inhibiting their growth. Regularly remove weeds from the area around the seedlings by hand or by using appropriate weeding tools. Applying a layer of organic mulch can also help suppress weed growth and conserve soil moisture.

  3. Nutrient deficiencies: Rhubarb requires adequate nutrients to grow and produce healthy stalks. Common nutrient deficiencies include nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Monitor the appearance of the plants for any signs of discoloration or stunted growth. If deficiencies are suspected, amend the soil with organic fertilizers or compost rich in the deficient nutrient.

  4. Inadequate sunlight: Rhubarb thrives in full sunlight, typically requiring at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. If the seedlings are not receiving enough sunlight, they may become leggy, weak, and produce smaller stalks. If possible, transplant the seedlings to a sunnier location to promote healthier growth.

  5. Overcrowding: Overcrowding can hinder the growth and development of rhubarb plants. As the seedlings grow, thin them out by removing weaker plants to allow sufficient space for the remaining ones to thrive. Adequate spacing promotes better air circulation and reduces the risk of diseases.


Growing rhubarb from seed can be a rewarding experience for the patient gardener. By taking the necessary precautions to protect seedlings from pests and diseases, understanding the appropriate time for harvesting, and knowing how to store and preserve the harvest, you can enjoy a bountiful supply of rhubarb for years to come. With proper care and attention, your rhubarb plants will thrive and provide a delicious addition to your garden and culinary creations.


What Is The Best Time To Plant Rhubarb Seeds?

The ideal time to plant rhubarb seeds is in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked and the soil starts to warm up.

Do I Need To Prepare The Soil Before Planting Rhubarb Seeds?

Yes, rhubarb seeds grow best in well-drained, fertile soil. It is recommended to prepare the soil by adding compost or well-rotted manure several weeks before planting. This will provide the seeds with essential nutrients and improve the soil structure.

How Deep Should I Plant Rhubarb Seeds?

Rhubarb seeds should be planted ½ inch deep in the soil. Planting them too deep can delay germination and hinder their growth.

How Often Should I Water Rhubarb Seeds After Planting?

Rhubarb seeds need to be kept consistently moist but not drenched. It is important to water them regularly, especially during dry periods, to ensure proper germination and growth.

How Long Does It Take For Rhubarb Seeds To Germinate?

Rhubarb seeds can take up to 3 weeks to germinate. However, it is not uncommon for them to take longer, so be patient and continue to care for them properly. Once they have germinated, they will continue to grow slowly until they are ready for transplanting.