How To Plant Rhubarb Root [ Full Guide ]

Rhubarb is a perennial plant known for its tart, crisp stalks that are commonly used in pies, jams, and desserts. Its resilience and longevity make it a popular choice for home gardeners. Planting rhubarb requires careful consideration of location, soil preparation, and handling of the root. This article will provide detailed guidance on how to successfully plant rhubarb roots, ensuring a bountiful harvest for years to come.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Rhubarb Root

To quickly summarize the process of planting rhubarb root:

  1. Select a suitable location with well-draining soil and ample sunlight.
  2. Prepare the soil by adding compost or well-rotted manure.
  3. Obtain healthy rhubarb roots from a reputable source.
  4. Plant the roots at the correct depth, leaving the crown just above the soil surface.
  5. Water thoroughly after planting and maintain consistent moisture.

By following these steps and providing proper care, you can establish a thriving rhubarb plant in your garden.

Understanding Rhubarb Roots

Before delving into the specifics of planting rhubarb, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of its root system. Rhubarb plants grow from fleshy, tuberous roots that store nutrients to support the plant’s growth and survival. These roots are typically planted in early spring or fall and are essential for establishing a robust rhubarb plant.

Rhubarb roots produce multiple shoots, known as crowns, which give rise to the leafy stalks that are harvested for consumption. It’s crucial to handle the roots with care to avoid damage and ensure the successful establishment of the plant.

Selecting The Right Location For Planting

Choosing the right location is crucial for the successful growth of rhubarb. Here are the key factors to consider when selecting a planting site:


Rhubarb thrives in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. However, to ensure optimal growth and yield, it’s best to plant rhubarb in a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Soil Drainage

Good drainage is essential for rhubarb, as it is susceptible to root rot in waterlogged soil. Select a site with well-draining soil to prevent water accumulation around the roots, which can cause them to rot.

Soil Ph

Rhubarb prefers slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH range of 6.0-7.0. Conduct a soil test to determine the pH level of the planting site and make adjustments if necessary by adding lime to raise the pH or elemental sulfur to lower it.

Preparing The Soil For Rhubarb

Once you’ve chosen the ideal location for planting rhubarb, it’s essential to prepare the soil to provide the best possible growing conditions for the plant.

Soil Amendment

Before planting, enrich the soil with well-rotted compost or aged manure to improve its fertility and structure. Incorporate the organic matter into the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches, ensuring that it is thoroughly mixed.

Weed Removal

Clear the planting area of weeds and grass to prevent competition for nutrients and space. Use a hoe or hand tools to remove any existing vegetation, and consider applying a layer of mulch after planting to suppress weed growth.

Buying Rhubarb Roots

When purchasing rhubarb roots, it’s important to obtain healthy, disease-free specimens from a reputable source. Whether buying from a local nursery or ordering online, consider the following factors:

Source Quality

Select roots from a reliable supplier known for providing robust, disease-resistant plants. Avoid purchasing roots from unknown or unverified sources, as they may carry diseases or pests that can harm your rhubarb crop.

Root Size And Health

Choose rhubarb roots that are thick, firm, and free from any signs of damage or decay. Look for well-developed crowns with multiple healthy buds, as these are indicators of vigorous growth potential.

Variety Selection

Rhubarb comes in different varieties, each with its unique characteristics such as stalk color, flavor, and disease resistance. Research the available varieties and select the one that best suits your preferences and growing conditions.

Planting Rhubarb Roots

Now that you have your rhubarb roots and the planting site prepared, it’s time to plant them correctly to ensure their successful establishment.

Planting Time

Rhubarb roots are typically planted in early spring or fall when the soil is cool but workable. Avoid planting in the heat of summer, as the stress of transplanting can be detrimental to the roots’ survival.

Digging Holes

Dig individual planting holes for each rhubarb root, ensuring that they are wide and deep enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending or crowding the roots.

Proper Depth

Place the rhubarb roots in the holes at a depth that allows the crown to sit just above the soil surface. The crown is the point where the shoots emerge from the roots, and burying it too deeply can inhibit growth.


Space multiple rhubarb plants at least 3-4 feet apart to allow for sufficient airflow and prevent overcrowding as the plants mature.

Watering And Care

After planting the rhubarb roots, it’s crucial to provide the necessary care to promote their establishment and subsequent growth.


Water the newly planted rhubarb deeply to settle the soil around the roots and provide essential moisture for initial growth. Maintain consistent moisture, ensuring that the soil does not become waterlogged or dry out excessively.


Applying a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plants can help retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth. Use materials such as straw, wood chips, or shredded leaves for effective mulching.


Avoid fertilizing newly planted rhubarb roots during their first year to prevent excessive leafy growth at the expense of root development. In the second year and beyond, apply a balanced fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to support vigorous growth and a bountiful harvest.

Planting rhubarb roots requires careful consideration of the planting site, soil preparation, and proper handling of the roots. By selecting a suitable location, preparing the soil, and planting healthy rhubarb roots, you can establish robust plants that will provide a bountiful harvest for years to come. With the right care and attention, your rhubarb patch can be a rewarding and productive addition to your garden.

Planting Rhubarb Roots: Step-by-Step Guide

Rhubarb is a versatile and hardy perennial vegetable that is popular for its tart, crisp stalks. While many people buy rhubarb plants from nurseries, planting rhubarb roots is a cost-effective and rewarding way to grow this delicious vegetable in your garden.

  1. Choose a Suitable Location: Rhubarb prefers well-draining soil and full sun to partial shade. Select a location in your garden that receives at least six hours of sunlight each day and has fertile soil with a pH level between 5.5 and 7.0. Avoid areas prone to waterlogging, as excessive moisture can cause root rot.

  2. Prepare the Soil: Before planting rhubarb roots, it is essential to prepare the soil adequately. Start by removing any weeds or grass from the planting area. Loosen the soil using a garden fork or tiller, breaking up any clumps and removing debris. Ensure that the soil is loose, friable, and well-draining.

  3. Amend the Soil: Rhubarb plants thrive in fertile soil, so it is beneficial to amend the planting area with organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. Spread a 2-3 inch layer of organic matter over the soil and work it into the top 12-18 inches using a garden fork. This improves soil fertility, drainage, and moisture retention.

  4. Dig Planting Holes: Dig holes that are at least 2 feet wide and 1 foot deep. Space each hole at least 3-4 feet apart to allow enough room for mature rhubarb plants to spread. The depth of the holes is crucial because rhubarb roots are quite extensive. Ensure that there is enough space to accommodate the roots comfortably.

  5. Plant the Rhubarb Roots: Place the rhubarb roots in the holes, making sure the crown (where the roots meet the stem) is no more than 1-2 inches below the soil surface. If the crown is too deep, it can impair growth and increase the risk of rotting. Position the roots so that the eyes (buds) are facing upwards.

  6. Backfill the Holes: Gently backfill the holes with the amended soil, ensuring that the roots are covered completely. Lightly firm the soil around the rhubarb roots to remove any air pockets. Take care not to compact the soil excessively, as this can impede root growth and water penetration.

  7. Water Thoroughly: After planting, thoroughly water the rhubarb roots to settle the soil and provide moisture for initial root establishment. Aim to provide at least 1 inch of water per week, either through rainfall or irrigation, during the growing season.

  8. Cover the Planting Area: To help protect the newly planted rhubarb roots from temperature extremes and weed growth, cover the planting area with a layer of organic mulch. Straw or shredded leaves make excellent mulching materials. Apply a 2-3 inch layer around the plants, leaving a gap around the crown to prevent rotting.

  9. Monitor and Care: Regularly monitor the rhubarb plants for signs of growth, pests, and diseases. Ensure that the plants receive adequate moisture, especially during dry spells. Remove any weeds that may compete with the plants for nutrients and water.

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Watering And Fertilizing Rhubarb

Watering: Rhubarb plants require consistent moisture to thrive, particularly during the growing season. Water deeply once a week, providing at least an inch of water per week. However, be cautious not to overwater, as rhubarb is susceptible to root rot. Monitor the soil moisture levels and adjust watering accordingly. Avoid overhead watering, as wet foliage can increase the risk of disease.

Fertilizing: Proper fertilization is essential for healthy rhubarb plants. Before planting, amend the soil with organic matter to enrich it with nutrients. In late winter or early spring, apply a balanced fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Use a rate of 1-2 pounds per 100 square feet of planting area. Apply the fertilizer evenly around the plants, avoiding direct contact with the stems or leaves. Additionally, incorporate a slow-release organic fertilizer into the soil annually to provide a steady supply of nutrients throughout the growing season.

Mulching Around Rhubarb Plants

Mulching is beneficial for rhubarb plants as it helps conserve soil moisture, suppresses weed growth, and regulates soil temperature. Here are some tips for mulching around rhubarb plants:

  • Mulch Material: Use organic mulch materials such as straw, shredded leaves, or wood chips. These materials break down over time, adding organic matter to the soil.

  • Thickness: Apply a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around the plants, taking care to create a small gap around the crown to prevent rotting.

  • Mulch Renewal: Replenish the mulch annually to maintain the desired thickness and effectiveness. Apply a fresh layer of mulch in early spring when the soil is still moist.

  • Weed Control: Mulch helps prevent weed growth by smothering weed seeds and blocking sunlight. Remove any weeds that manage to penetrate the mulch to avoid competition for nutrients and water.

Pruning And Thinning Rhubarb

Pruning and thinning are essential practices that promote the productivity and health of rhubarb plants. Here are some guidelines for pruning and thinning rhubarb:


  • First Year: Resist the temptation to harvest any stalks during the first year after planting. This allows the plant to establish a robust root system.

  • Second Year Onward: In the second year, you can begin harvesting a few stalks. Rhubarb stalks are ready for harvest when they are at least 10-15 inches long and have thickened. To harvest, grasp the stalk near the base, twist it, and pull it away from the crown. Never remove more than one-third of the stalks at a time to avoid weakening the plant. Remove any flower stalks that appear, as they divert energy from stalk production.

  • Dormant Season: After the first frost in late fall or early winter, cut back the remaining stalks to ground level. This helps eliminate any overwintering pests and diseases and encourages vigorous regrowth in the following season.


  • Crowded Plants: Over time, rhubarb plants may become crowded, leading to reduced air circulation and increased risk of diseases. To thin the plants, dig up and divide mature clumps every 4-5 years. Use a sharp shovel or spade to separate the crown into smaller sections, ensuring that each division has healthy roots and buds. Replant the divisions in well-prepared soil at the appropriate spacing.
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Protecting Rhubarb Roots From Pests And Diseases

Rhubarb plants are generally resistant to most pests and diseases. However, certain issues can still arise, affecting the health and productivity of the plants. Here are some common pests and diseases that may impact rhubarb and how to protect against them:


  • Snails and Slugs: These pests can cause significant damage to rhubarb leaves. Use organic pest control methods such as handpicking, beer traps, or applying diatomaceous earth to deter and control snails and slugs.

  • Aphids: These small insects suck the sap from the leaves, causing stunted growth and leaf curling. Spray affected plants with a strong stream of water to dislodge aphids and introduce natural predators such as ladybugs or lacewings.


  • Crown Rot: Overly wet or poorly drained soil can lead to crown rot, which causes the plant to wilt and decline. Ensure proper soil drainage and avoid overwatering to prevent crown rot. Additionally, remove and destroy any infected plants to prevent the spread of the disease.

  • Leaf Spot: Fungal diseases such as leaf spot can affect the foliage of rhubarb plants. Ensure good air circulation around the plants by providing adequate spacing and removing any debris or dead leaves. Preventive sprays of fungicides, such as copper-based products, can be used to control leaf spot if necessary.

Planting rhubarb roots can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to grow this versatile vegetable in your garden. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article and implementing proper watering, fertilizing, mulching, pruning, and thinning practices, you can ensure the healthy growth and productivity of your rhubarb plants. Regular monitoring and protection against pests and diseases will further contribute to the success of your rhubarb garden, allowing you to enjoy the delicious and tangy stalks for many years to come.

Harvesting Rhubarb: When And How To Pick

Before we delve into the process of planting rhubarb root, it’s essential to understand the plant and its requirements. Rhubarb, scientifically known as Rheum rhabarbarum, is a cool-season perennial vegetable that belongs to the Polygonaceae family. While we commonly use the stalks of the plant in cooking, it’s important to note that the leaves are toxic and should never be consumed.

Rhubarb grows best in regions with cool summers and cold winters, thriving in USDA hardiness zones 3-8. It prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter and slightly acidic, with pH levels between 5.5 and 6.5. The plant requires adequate sunlight, ideally around six hours per day, but it can tolerate partial shade.

When planting rhubarb, it’s essential to choose a suitable location that meets these requirements. Additionally, keep in mind that rhubarb is a long-lived perennial plant, so selecting an area where it can grow undisturbed for many years is crucial.

Before jumping into the planting process, it’s important to understand when and how to harvest rhubarb. Proper harvesting is crucial for the plant’s overall health and productivity.

Harvesting rhubarb is typically done in the second year after planting, as the plants need time to establish strong root systems. Once the plant has matured, you can start harvesting stalks in the late spring or early summer, usually from April to June, depending on your location.

To harvest rhubarb stalks, follow these steps:

  1. Select stalks that are thick and vibrant in color, usually about 10-15 inches long. Avoid picking thin or weak-looking stalks, as they may not be as flavorful.

  2. Firmly grasp the stalk near its base and gently pull it sideways. The stalk should detach from the crown without any resistance. Do not twist or pull upwards, as this can cause damage to the plant.

  3. Instead of harvesting all the stalks at once, it’s recommended to leave a few stalks on the plant to ensure it continues to grow and photosynthesize. This will ensure the plant remains healthy and productive for the rest of the season.

  4. If any stalks become woody or start to lean over, they should be harvested promptly. Leaving such stalks on the plant can affect the overall development and vigor of the plant.

Once you’ve harvested the stalks, it’s time to move on to propagating rhubarb from root divisions.

Propagating Rhubarb From Root Divisions

One common method of propagating rhubarb is through root divisions. This allows you to expand your rhubarb patch or start new plants. Dividing rhubarb plants every 4-5 years also helps to rejuvenate older plants and maintain their productivity.

Here’s how you can propagate rhubarb from root divisions:

  1. Choose a mature rhubarb plant that is at least three years old. Look for a plant with strong, healthy-looking crowns and robust root systems.

  2. To prepare for division, the rhubarb plant should be dug up carefully. Start by loosening the soil around the plant, ensuring that you don’t damage the roots.

  3. Once the plant is free of surrounding soil, use a sharp knife or garden spade to divide the root structure. Aim to create divisions that each have at least one bud and a few healthy roots attached.

  4. Trim away any damaged or rotting parts of the root divisions to ensure their successful growth.

  5. Prepare the planting site for the new divisions. The soil should be fertile, well-drained, and enriched with organic matter. Clear any weeds or debris from the area.

  6. Dig a hole that is deep and wide enough to accommodate the root division. Place the division in the hole, ensuring the bud is level with the soil surface.

  7. Gently backfill the hole with soil, making sure not to excessively compact it. Water the newly planted division thoroughly to help settle the soil and provide the necessary moisture.

  8. Repeat the process of dividing and planting rhubarb root divisions as desired, ensuring adequate spacing between the plants. Leave about 3-4 feet of space between each division to allow ample room for growth.

  9. After planting, it’s crucial to provide proper care for the newly propagated plants. This includes regular watering, mulching to conserve moisture and suppress weeds, and applying a balanced fertilizer to encourage healthy growth.

  10. It’s important to note that newly propagated rhubarb plants may take a year or two to become fully established and productive. During this time, it’s beneficial to avoid harvesting the stalks to allow the plant to focus on root development.

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Winter Care For Rhubarb Roots

Winter care is crucial to ensure the survival and vitality of rhubarb roots. Proper protection and maintenance practices during the colder months can help your plants thrive in the following growing season. Here are some essential winter care tips for rhubarb:

  1. Mulching: Applying a layer of organic mulch around the base of the rhubarb plant helps to insulate the soil and protect the roots from freezing temperatures. Straw, leaves, or compost are commonly used as mulch.

  2. Cutting Back: Before the first frost hits, it’s advised to cut back the foliage of the rhubarb plant. This helps remove any growth that may harbor pests or diseases. Cut the stalks off at ground level and remove the foliage, but be careful not to damage the crown.

  3. Divide and Replant: Late autumn or early spring is an excellent time to divide and replant rhubarb root divisions. By doing so, you rejuvenate the original plant and ensure continuous productivity.

  4. Soil Protection: In regions with severe winters, it’s beneficial to protect the soil around the rhubarb plant by adding a layer of compost or well-rotted manure. This helps to retain moisture, regulate temperature, and create a favorable environment for root growth.

  5. Pest Control: Remove any debris or fallen leaves around the rhubarb plant to reduce the risk of pest infestation during the winter. This helps prevent pests from overwintering and causing damage to the plant in the following season.

By following these winter care practices, you can ensure that your rhubarb plants remain healthy and productive year after year.

Troubleshooting Common Rhubarb Root Issues

While rhubarb is generally a hardy plant, it is susceptible to a few common issues that can affect its root system and overall health. By identifying and addressing these problems early on, you can help your rhubarb plants thrive. Here are some common rhubarb root issues and their solutions:

  1. Crown Rot: Crown rot is a fungal disease that affects the base of the rhubarb plant. It is often caused by poor drainage or overwatering. To prevent crown rot, ensure that your planting site has well-drained soil and avoid excessive watering. If you notice signs of crown rot, such as discoloration or rotting at the base of the plant, remove the affected plant immediately to prevent the disease from spreading.

  2. Root Rot: Similar to crown rot, root rot is a fungal disease that affects the roots of the rhubarb plant. It is caused by overly wet conditions and can lead to stunted growth and wilting. To prevent root rot, ensure proper soil drainage and avoid overwatering the plant. If root rot is detected, cut away the affected roots and replant the healthy portions in well-drained soil.

  3. Pest Infestation: Rhubarb may attract certain pests, particularly root-dwelling pests like nematodes and root maggots. To prevent infestations, keep the planting area clear of debris, weeds, and fallen leaves that may harbor pests. Additionally, rotating crops and using organic pest control methods can help keep these pests at bay.

  4. Nutrient Deficiencies: Rhubarb plants require a good supply of nutrients to thrive. If you notice stunted growth, yellowing leaves, or other signs of nutrient deficiencies, it may be necessary to apply a balanced fertilizer. Test your soil to identify any deficiencies and adjust your fertilization program accordingly.

  5. Crowding: Over time, rhubarb plants can become crowded, leading to reduced productivity. To prevent overcrowding, divide and replant the root divisions every 4-5 years. This helps maintain the vigor and productivity of the plants.

By monitoring your rhubarb plants for these common root issues and taking appropriate action, you can ensure that your plants remain healthy and productive for years to come.


Growing rhubarb from root divisions is an excellent way to start and expand your rhubarb patch. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can successfully plant rhubarb root, harvest the stalks at the right time, propagate new plants, and provide proper winter care. Additionally, troubleshooting common rhubarb root issues will help ensure the long-term health and productivity of your plants. With a little care and attention, you’ll be able to enjoy the delicious and versatile rhubarb harvest year after year.


What Are The Ideal Growing Conditions For Rhubarb?

Rhubarb prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. It grows best in a sunny or partially shaded spot with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8.

When Should I Plant Rhubarb Root?

Rhubarb can be planted in early spring or in the fall, but spring is the preferred time. Plant the crown as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring.

How Deep Should I Plant The Rhubarb Root?

The crown of the rhubarb plant should be planted just below the soil surface. Make sure the top of the crown is level with the soil.

What Kind Of Fertilizer Should I Use For Rhubarb?

Rhubarb responds well to a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, which should be applied in the early spring and again in mid-summer. Avoid applying too much nitrogen, as this can cause the plant to produce too many leaves instead of stalks.

How Often Should I Water My Rhubarb Plant?

Rhubarb plants require consistent moisture, so water deeply once a week during dry weather. Keep the soil evenly moist, but do not overwater. Mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and control weeds.