Growing Rhubarb Successfully in the South
Growing Rhubarb from Crowns
GROWING RHUBARB FROM CROWNS IN WARMER CLIMATES
Rhubarb, aka "the pie plant" is normally a perennial plant in most parts of the U.S. However, it can be grown moderately productively as an annual plant in regions where it is difficult to grow. Growing rhubarb as an annual, is important in places where the summer mean temperatures is over 75 degrees F and the winter mean temperatures are over 40 degrees F -- as rhubarb requires a certain range of temperatures.
Many Southern gardeners grow the plant as an annual, either from seed or from crowns. In warmer climates, growing the plant from crowns, is the preferred method. If grown from crowns, there are three different modes of thought in terms of raising rhubarb successfully:
1. Purchase crowns from Northern suppliers as early in the spring as possible to insure having crowns whose rest periods have been broken.
2. Purchase crows from Northern suppliers in late summer. Then, place in cold storage (freeze them solid for at least six weeks). Finally, plant rhubarb in the fall or early winter.
3. If you are ambitious and extremely patient, consider using the method of "winter forcing" the crowns. NOTE: This common commercial practice consists of using roots that are a couple years old. They have had a rest period and are placed under artificial conditions, where they will sprout and produce stalks.
OTHER IMPORTANT KEYS TO SUCCESSFULLY GROWING RHUBARB PLANTS:
1. Rhubarb prefers to be left undisturbed after planting.
2. Even though it is a cooler weather plant, it still needs sun for part of each day. Therefore, do not plant in the full shade.
3. In extreme high temperatures (over 90F), growth will stall and the plant may even die back. Don't worry if this happens, as growth will resume once the weather cools.
4. Do not plant under trees.
5. Never harvest all of stems at one time, rhubarb needs at least some stems to survive.
6. Rhubarb does not tolerate weeds well.
7. If rhubarb plants become unproductive, check for root rot or root knot. If present, your only real choice is to start over.
Remember: Rhubarb leaves and roots are poisonous.
Warmer Climate Gardening
Growing and Forcing Rhubarb
What You Might Not Know About Rhubarb
We all know that rhubarb makes great pies and sauces. Taking you back through history, you should know that rhubarb wasn't brought to North American until 1790. It's a plant that originated in the eastern Mediterranean and parts of Asia.
The earliest mention of rhubarb dates back to 2700 years before Christ when the Chinese used it in small quantities (the roots) in medicines. Rhubarb roots have a large number of powerful chemicals that if used improperly can violently upset the stomach and intestines.
Historically, it has also been used as poison to kill both humans and animals. Only the stalks are edible. Caution should be used in planting rhubarb anywhere small children and animals can innocently eat the leaves.
Another, fact that you might not know about rhubarb is that rhubarb is like apples. Meaning that it is never true to seed. Each rhubarb seed that you would plant produces a different kind of rhubarb. Therefore, you must use root pieces for planting, in order to get the same variety of rhubarb.