How to Grow Rhubarb from Seed to Harvest
You want to grow rhubarb at home? Good news! It’s fairly simple and also quite a lot of fun.
However, to make your growing experience as enjoyable as possible, make sure that you follow all the instructions in this article.
In fact, I show you how to grow rhubarb from seed to harvest in a step-by-step approach.
I also included some videos from other passionate gardeners to make this rhubarb grower’s guide even more comprehensive.
Without further ado, let’s get started! 😉
Rhubarb Plant Profile
|Size||Around 3 feet tall and 2 – 3 feet wide.|
|Climate||Rhubarb grows best in cool climatic zones with optimal temperatures ranging between 40 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.|
|Sun Exposure||Rhubarb plants like the sun and you should therefore provide a sunny spot for your rhubarb plants in your garden or on your balcony.|
|Soil Requirements||Rhubarb likes slightly acidic soil conditions with a soil pH between 6.2 and 6.8.|
|Country of Origin||China.|
|Growing Difficulty||Intermediate. While growing rhubarb at home is not that difficult, it still requires some knowledge.|
|When should you start?||The best time to start your rhubarb growth project is in early spring.|
|Expected Yield & Harvest||You can expect between 1 and 3 pounds of rhubarb per year.|
|What to do with it?||You can make delicious cakes, muffins or pies out of your rhubarb.|
What Types and Varieties of Rhubarb can you grow?
While you might only know a few rhubarb varieties from the store, there are several types of rhubarb you can grow at home.
I listed the most popular rhubarb varieties for growing purposes below:
- Crimson Red
- German Vine
- Cherry Red
- Prince Albert
- Riverside Giant
- Hardy Tarty
- Glaskin’s Perpetual
My favorite rhubarb variety to grow is Cherry Red since it produces quite decent yields and also tastes quite well.
However, tastes are different and you should find out for yourself which rhubarb varieties you want to grow.
If you are not sure yet, you may just want to grow a handful of different rhubarb varieties in your first growing year so that you can evaluate which ones you like most and can grow your favorite varieties in future years.
When should you start to grow Rhubarb?
You can grow rhubarb in early spring if you want to grow it from seed to harvest.
Please note that rhubarb is a perennial plant and that it takes more than one year until you will finally be able to harvest your rhubarb plants for the first time.
Thus, if you want to start from seed, the best time to start raising your rhubarb seeds is at the end of February or at the beginning of March.
By planting rhubarb seeds that early, your rhubarb plants will have enough time to grow and to get big and resistant before winter arrives.
How long does it take to grow Rhubarb from Seed to Harvest?
If you grow rhubarb from seed to harvest, it will take more than one year.
In fact, if you start growing rhubarb in spring this year, you can expect to get your first rhubarb harvest in late spring or early summer next year.
Hence, it will take quite a long time to grow rhubarb.
However, keep in mind that rhubarb is a perennial plant and that you can enjoy rhubarb yields for many years to come.
In fact, rhubarb plants can get as old as ten years or even more and therefore, the initial upfront investment could be worth the effort and to wait a little bit longer for the first harvest.
What is the best Climate to grow Rhubarb?
While rhubarb likes cooler climatic conditions, it can also grow in many different climatic zones as long as it freezes in winter for a longer period of time.
The freeze in winter is necessary so that rhubarb can be harvested in spring.
What Temperatures does Rhubarb like?
The best temperature to grow rhubarb is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below in winter and below 75 degrees Fahrenheit in summer.
Please note that we are talking about optimal temperatures here and that seed companies did a good job in developing rhubarb strains that develop quite well also in warmer climates.
However, rhubarb still grows best in colder climatic zones of our planet and you should not grow it if you live in hot and humid climatic zones since this will simply not work out.
What do you need to grow Rhubarb?
Even though growing rhubarb is not difficult at all, there are still some things you need to get to make your rhubarb growing experience as enjoyable as possible. These include:
- Growing bed (to grow your rhubarb seedlings, only necessary if you don’t grow your rhubarb directly outside)
- Flower pots (only necessary if you don’t want to grow rhubarb in your garden)
- Rhubarb seeds
- Fertilizer (you can also make your own organic fertilizer for which I give you the instructions below)
- Potting soil
- Sticks and cord to stabilize your rhubarbs
- Slug fence
- Watering can
- Garden shovel
- Compost (optional)
- Passion and patience for growing rhubarb 😉
What Yield can you expect when you grow Rhubarb?
While you will only be able to harvest 1-2 pounds of rhubarb per plant in the first years, you can expect your yields to increase in later years once your rhubarb plant becomes bigger and more resistant.
Hence, don’t expect too much at the beginning and just let it grow and be patient.
Chances are that you will be able to harvest up to 5 pounds of rhubarb per plant every year once your plants get older.
What plants should you grow with Rhubarb?
Make sure to check out my article that shows you the best and worst rhubarb companion plants if you want to learn more about what plants you should grow next to your rhubarbs.
Why should you grow your own Rhubarb?
Many people also don’t understand why they should bother with growing their own rhubarb at home.
I have to admit that it can be quite a lot of work and since it will take a long time to be finally able to harvest any rhubarb, it can be exhausting first.
However, there are also some benefits of growing rhubarb at home.
For me, it’s simply quite a lot of fun to see my plants grow and it just gives me a good feeling. I really enjoy gardening and growing rhubarb is just one part of it.
Moreover, since rhubarb is a perennial plant, you can enjoy harvesting rhubarb for many years to come and do no longer have to rely on buying rhubarb from the store.
In fact, when you buy rhubarb from the store, it is often contaminated with harmful chemicals from pesticides and herbicides that are used in conventional agriculture.
Hence, you can avoid consuming those harmful substances by just growing your own rhubarb in a completely natural and organic manner.
Additionally, growing your own rhubarb can also help you to lower your overall stress level.
In fact, in our current state of the world, people are often stressed by their jobs and their daily lives and just need a break.
If you are one of those people, try growing rhubarb and other plants at home. You will be surprised how good it can help to lower your stress level.
Consequently, even though it might not be intuitive first, growing your own rhubarb at home can actually make quite a lot of sense.
Growing Rhubarb: Step-by-Step
1. Select a Site for your Rhubarb
Now that you know why it can be a good idea to grow your own rhubarb at home, it is time to select the optimal site for your rhubarb in your garden or on your balcony.
Does Rhubarb like Sun or Shade?
Rhubarb grows best when it gets many hours of sun each day. However, this doesn’t mean that it has to get full sun all day long.
In fact, especially in warmer climatic zones, it can actually be beneficial if your rhubarb plants get some shade during lunchtime and afternoon.
Hence, choose a sunny spot for your rhubarb plants without exposing them to full sun all day long.
What are the Soil Requirements of Rhubarb?
Rhubarb prefers slightly acidic soil with a soil pH of between 6.2 and 6.8. This may sound complicated at first, but it isn’t.
In fact, in order to provide those conditions, you just need to get some potting soil from your garden center and mix it with soil from your garden.
Alternatively, you can also add some compost and other nutrient-rich ingredients and you are good to go.
How much Space do Rhubarb Plants need?
Since rhubarb plants are perennial and can get quite big over time, make sure that you provide sufficient space for your plants.
I would recommend you plan at least 10 square feet for each rhubarb plant so that it can grow in an optimal manner and will not have to compete for sunlight and nutrients with other plants.
Should you plant Rhubarb in a Pot or in your Garden?
Both options are possible. However, since rhubarb plants will get quite big, I recommend you to grow them in your garden instead of in a pot.
In fact, you will not only be able to provide more space in your garden for your rhubarb plants, you will also be able to provide more natural conditions.
2. Plant Rhubarb Seeds
After choosing the perfect location for your rhubarb plants, it is now time to start with the actual growing process.
Should you buy Rhubarb Seeds or Seedlings?
The first thing you have to decide before actually planting your seeds is to figure out whether you want to grow rhubarb from seeds or from seedlings. Both options have their upsides and downsides.
While it will take not that long to the first harvest if you just buy rhubarb seedlings from your garden center and plant them, you will miss out on one important step in the whole growth process.
In fact, even though it will take longer, I advise you to grow your own rhubarb seedlings from seed instead of buying seedlings from the store in order to get the full growing experience.
Growing rhubarb seedlings is not difficult and I show you all you need to grow rhubarb seedlings step-by-step in the following.
Should you buy Rhubarb Seeds or produce Seeds by yourself?
If I convinced you that growing rhubarb from seeds is in fact a good idea, it is now time to get your rhubarb seeds.
If you have never grown rhubarb before, you will have no other choice than getting rhubarb seeds from the store since you can’t get it out of the rhubarb crops.
Hence, if this is your first time growing rhubarb, just get some seeds from the store and you are good to go.
Sure, in future years, you can just harvest seeds from your rhubarb plants and don’t have to buy rhubarb seeds from the store anymore if you want to grow even more rhubarb plants in your garden or on your balcony.
How to plant Rhubarb Seeds
Now that you got your rhubarb seeds, it is time to actually plant those seeds.
For that, just get your growing bed, fill it with potting soil and place your rhubarb seeds onto the soil surface.
Make sure that you leave at least 5 inches of space between each seed so that your rhubarb seedlings can grow in an optimal manner and don’t interfere with each other.
After you placed all of your seeds, cover them with an additional soil layer of around 1 inch in height.
Water your growing bed and put it in a nice and warm spot inside your home so that the rhubarb seeds can germinate in an optimal manner.
Now it is time to wait until you will see the first results.
Alternatively, you can also grow your seeds directly outside in your garden or in your pot.
However, make sure that there is no freeze anymore if you want to choose to go this direct way and don’t want to raise your seedlings in the growing bed.
How long does it take to see the first Rhubarb Seedlings?
It can take a few weeks until the majority of your rhubarb seedlings will become visible to you.
In fact, it can take more than one month until all rhubarb seedlings will reach the soil surface.
However, note that not all seeds will germinate and that you should plant more seeds than you want to get seedlings.
I recommend you plant at least 2 rhubarb seeds for each seedling you want to get to make sure that you actually reach your goal.
How to protect your Rhubarb Seedlings indoors
Since your rhubarb seedlings will be protected inside your four walls in your growing bed in a proper manner, there will be no need for additional protection.
In fact, you can just let your seedlings grow and if you don’t have any pets, you will be just fine.
In case you have pets, make sure to place your growing bed in a spot where your pets can’t access it to protect your seedlings.
When should you transplant your Rhubarb Seedlings?
Sooner or later, it will be time to transplant your rhubarb seedlings outdoors. However, before you consider doing so, make sure that the following criteria are met.
First, make sure that there is no freeze outside anymore. Your young rhubarb seedlings don’t like freeze at all and may even die off if you expose them to the cold too soon.
Second, make sure that your rhubarb seeds have a certain height before you transplant them outside.
I recommend you wait until your rhubarb seedlings reach a minimum height of at least 5 inches.
If both criteria are met, it is time to transplant your rhubarb seedlings outdoors. For that, first prepare your growing site.
For each seedling, dig a hole of around 10 square feet in size into your garden which is around 1 foot deep.
Next, mix the soil from your garden with potting soil from the store. You can also add some additional natural fertilizer or compost to the soil mix.
After you prepared your soil mix, fill it in the holes and transplant one seedling on each spot.
Make sure to water your rhubarb plants and you are done.
What kind of Protection do Rhubarb Seedlings need outdoor?
Since your rhubarb seedlings will no longer have the level of protection they had inside your four walls, it is time to take some additional protective measures.
I suggest you just use a slug fence instead of using any chemical substances to protect your plants.
Those slug fences do not only work better since they deter a variety of different animals, they are also much eco-friendlier and also don’t pollute the soil.
Hence, just rely on this simple but yet effective protective measure for your rhubarb plants and you are good to go.
3. The Rhubarb Growth Process
Now that you finished transplanting your rhubarb seedlings outdoors and protected them properly, it is time to talk about some additional topics that are relevant for the further optimal growth process of your rhubarb plants.
Should you prune your Rhubarb?
I am personally not a big fan of pruning rhubarb. If you have sufficient space in your garden, just let it grow and let nature do its work.
As long as your rhubarb plants have enough space, sunlight and nutrients, they will grow in a decent manner if you just let them grow instead of pruning them.
Do you have to pollinate your Rhubarb Plants by Hand?
No, there is absolutely no need to pollinate your rhubarbs by hand. No further manual action is required from your side in this regard.
Should you stake your Rhubarb?
Since rhubarb plants can get quite big, it can be a good idea to stake and to stabilize them.
You can just use some sticks, place one stick next to each rhubarb plant and tie your rhubarb plants with cord to those sticks.
Please note that this is not urgently necessary, but it can still help you to stabilize your plants and to protect them from heavy winds.
4. The Rhubarb Harvest
Once you stabilized your rhubarb plants, it is time to wait until your rhubarbs get bigger.
In fact, until you can harvest your first rhubarb, you will have to wait until the next spring or even summer arrives.
When should you harvest your Rhubarb?
During your first years of growing, you should not harvest too many rhubarb stalks so that your rhubarb will have enough plant material left to sustain itself.
In fact, I would recommend you just harvest 1-2 rhubarb stalks for the first two years. You can harvest those stalks when the leaves are fully open.
Please note that it can even take until summer next year until this is the case. Make sure that you only use the stalk, not the leaves since rhubarb leaves are in fact toxic!
How to store your Rhubarb?
The easiest way to store your rhubarb is by simply freezing it. However, you can also store it in a dark and dry place in your home for a while.
However, please note that rhubarb contains the most precious substances right after the harvest and I therefore recommend you eat your rhubarb pretty soon after the harvest.
What should you do with your Rhubarb?
You can make many different dishes out of your rhubarb. For instance, you could make a rhubarb crumble or make cakes, pies or muffins.
Opportunities are almost endless and you should just use your rhubarb for creating the dishes you like most.
Rhubarb Plant Care Tips
You now know how to grow rhubarb from seed to harvest step-by-step.
However, some general information is still missing which I want to provide you in the following.
How often should you irrigate Rhubarb?
You should irrigate your rhubarb plants whenever the soil is dry.
While it will be enough to irrigate your rhubarbs once every few days when they are still small, you will have to irrigate them almost every day once they get bigger.
Of course, this also depends on your outside conditions. On hot and dry summer days, you will have to water your rhubarbs quite a lot.
However, after heavy rain, the soil will likely be wet for a few days and there will not be a need to water your plants.
Hence, just adjust your watering behavior to the outside conditions and you will be good to go.
You can also just dig a small hole with your finger into the soil right next to your rhubarb plant and see if it is still wet.
If the soil is wet, some soil will stick to your finger and there will be no need to water your rhubarb plants.
If no soil sticks to your finger, this means you should water your plants since the soil is already dry.
At what Time of the Day should you water your Rhubarb Plants?
Water your plants when it fits your personal schedule! Honestly! I know, some people claim that the best time to water your rhubarbs is in the early morning.
However, I have not seen any difference in my growing projects and you should just water your rhubarbs at the time of the day that best fits with your personal way of life.
How often should you fertilize your Rhubarb Plants?
You should fertilize your rhubarb plants on a regular basis.
Especially in later years, the soil will no longer provide sufficient nutrients for your rhubarbs and you should add fertilizer to your plants to let them grow in an optimal manner for many years to come.
What kind of Fertilizer should you use for your Rhubarb Plants?
I suggest you use a completely natural organic fertilizer instead of relying on chemical fertilizer.
In fact, chemical fertilizer can be quite bad for our environment and can also damage the soil in the long run.
Hence to make your rhubarb growing experience as eco-friendly as possible, make sure to rely on natural fertilizer which you can buy from the store.
If you have a little bit of time, you can also just make your own natural fertilizer. You just have to collect some stinging nettles, put them in a bucket full of water and wait for 3 to 4 days.
After that, just remove the plant material and you produced a perfectly natural fertilizer that you can use to fertilize your rhubarbs on a regular basis.
You just need to add some of it to the water in your watering can and you are good to go.
Should you use Pesticides or Herbicides for Growing Rhubarb?
Also in the context of pesticides and herbicides, I don’t recommend you use any chemical substances.
In fact, those substances do not only remove unwanted pests, they also lower the populations of helpful insects like bees.
Instead of relying on chemical substances, I suggest you just use the stinging nettle liquid mentioned above and spray it onto your rhubarbs.
You heard right! 😉 Stinging nettle liquid is not only a perfectly natural fertilizer, it can also help you to keep away pests of various sorts from your rhubarb plants.
If you want more information on pest control in general, you should also have a look at how to control rhubarb plant diseases and pests.
What’s left to say?
Thanks for reading! I am always fascinated by how long those grower’s guides get, but I was simply not able to make this rhubarb grower’s guide any shorter without leaving out important things you have to know to grow rhubarb from seed to harvest in the best possible manner.
I hope you liked my article. If so, make sure to share it! Also make sure to have a look at my growing rhubarb FAQ article to get even more information about growing rhubarb at home.
About the author
My name is Andreas and I’m really passionate about our environment and also about growing plants. In fact, I have grown several different plants over many years. I love to see my own plants grow and always try new things.
In my blog posts, I want to share my experiences with you so that you can become successful in growing various different plants, even if you are still a beginner right now.