Guide to Growing Rhubarb from Seed
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Growing Rhubarb from Seed

This easy guide to growing rhubarb from seed gives step by step instructions with pictures from germination to harvest. Rhubarb is a hardy plant which will last many years in the home garden.

Rhubarb is a herbaceous perennial which grows from thick rhizomes. The stems are picked from the middle of spring through to early fall (autumn). Stems will vary in color from green to pink and red.

Culinary Uses of Rhubarb

The fleshy long stems are used in a variety of desserts such as Rhubarb and Strawberry Pie or these recipes for Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote and Rhubarb and Walnut Crumble. Rhubarb has a tart taste and pairs perfectly with berries.

To use the stems in cooking simply cut one inch from the base of the plant then cut off the leaf at the end. The leaves are inedible. Wash the stem then slice into bite sized pieces.

Rhubarb also freezes well however it should be blanched before freezing. It is best to freeze in batches with the amount your favorite recipe requires so it is easy to thaw. See this guide to Freezing Rhubarb for more information.

Growing Rhubarb from Seed

Rhubarb grows best in temperate climates however it will grow well in hothouses in cooler climates and greenhouses create the perfect growing conditions in areas with hot summers.

Seeds will germinate easily direct in their final position in the spring and summer. It will take one year from planting the seed until the plant is ready for harvest.

What is the best soil for Rhubarb?

Rhubarb likes damp soil but not waterlogged or the roots will rot. It is best to avoid clay and heavy soils and ensure your soil has good drainage.

What is the best location for rhubarb?

Choose a sunny position in the garden with free draining soil. Protect from high summer temperatures by either growing in a greenhouse or cover with shade cloth on hot days.

Can you put rhubarb leaves in the compost?

Yes, even though they are poisonous to eat they are safe to put in the compost bin and will provide nitrogen to the soil. Simply chop up so they will decompose quickly.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Rhubarb Seeds – These Rheum Australe seeds are highly rated and frost resistant. (Paid link)
  • Shovel
  • Aged Manure or Compost
  • Trowel – Try this award winning ergonomic Trowel from Radius Garden which has a unique handle design to reduce hand fatigue. (Paid link)
  • Mulch
  • Liquid Fertilizer

Instructions

Growing rhubarb from seed in the home garden.

  1. Prepare the Soil

    Prepare the soil by digging in compost or aged manure. Rows will need to be 27.5 inches (70 cm) apart. Make a wide trench along the rows with the trowel.

  2. Sow the Rhubarb Seed

    Plant the rhubarb seed ½ inch (12 mm) deep and 20 inches (50 cm) apart in the row. Place two seeds in each hole then gently back fill with soil.
    A single rhubarb seed before planting.

  3. Germination

    Keep moist with a mist spray. Once germinated thin the rhubarb out to one plant per 20 inches (50 cm) along the row. Mulch well to keep down weeds and prevent water loss.
    Rhubarb seedling with four leaves.

  4. Plant Care

    Fertilize with a half strength liquid fertilizer two weeks after germination then use a full strength application every two weeks for the best results. Cut off any flower stems at the base of the plant as they will take away from leaf production.
    Rhubarb flowers before removing.

  5. Warm Weather

    Water the rhubarb plant well during warm weather. It will need to be kept moist but not water logged. Cut off any stems which begin to dry at the base of the plant.
    Rhubarb plant during the first year.

  6. Harvest

    Harvest the following spring. Cut the outside stems an inch from the base of the plant then cut off the leaves. Do not eat the leaves as they are poisonous. Always leave a few center stems on the plant.
    It is best not to harvest during the winter as the stems provide the energy needed for the plant to survive the colder temperatures.
    Harvesting rhubarb stems by cutting with sharp scissors.

Saving Rhubarb Seeds

To save rhubarb seeds you will need to let the plant flower. The seeds will form after flowering. Collect the seeds once the seeds start to dry on the plant then leave in an open container to completely dry. Be aware that letting the rhubarb flower and produce seeds may affect the following years leaf production.

Tip

Rhubarb leaves can be used to suppress weeds in the garden by simply laying over the top. Be mindful that the leaves are also poisonous to animals.

Do you have trouble digging in the garden due to muscle weakness? Try this uniquely designed Root Slayer Shovel from Radius Garden. This shovel can prevent arm, wrist and hand fatigue making digging easier. (Paid link)

For more information on growing vegetables at home see this guide to Vegetable Gardening. You might also like these guides to growing Kohlrabi, Onions or Corn.

Homesteading is all about getting the most from your home and garden to save money and live sustainably. For more information try our Homesteading guide.

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