Growing Organic Rhubarb – In Containers, Pots At Home

Introduction on Growing Organic Rhubarb in Containers

Rhubarb is also called pieplant, is easy to grow, but needs cool weather to thrive. It is a hardy perennial of the smartweed family (Polygonaceae). Rhubarb is packed with minerals, contains fibre that is good for digestion, and is abundant in vitamins B and C. Pot-grown Rhubarb can be planted at any time but will need plenty of water to grow. In this article we also discuss the below topics;

  • Tips for growing Rhubarb in pots
  • How long does Rhubarb take to grow
  • Growing Rhubarb in pots
  • Does the Rhubarb plant grow best in sun or shade?
  • Best time to transplant Rhubarb
  • Does Rhubarb need lots of water
  • What is the best time to pick Rhubarb
  • Rhubarb plants growing tips
  • How do you grow Rhubarb

A Step By Step Guide to Organic Growing Rhubarb in Containers

Grow Rhubarb plant in full sun, in rich, moist soil. In hot regions, plant Rhubarb will get some protection from the hot afternoon sun. If your soil is heavy and doesn’t drain well, raised beds are a good option for growing Rhubarb. Space Rhubarb plants 75-90 cm apart, with 30 cm between rows. Rhubarb can also be planted in very large pots at least 20 inches deep and wide.

Rhubarb is a seriously easy plant to grow. The Rhubarb plant is a perennial, which means it grows for several years and it’s both straightforward to grow and very hardy. Rhubarb plant thrives in open sunny sites with moisture-retaining soil. You can grow Rhubarb plant from seed or plants (crowns).

Different Rhubarb Varieties

Rhubarb varieties change in stem colour, vigour and heat tolerance, but the differences are small.

Champagn Rhubarb – This is easy to grow and reliable, colors a glorious deep red if left, and takes on a pink stalk if forced. This variety is ideal for forcing to produce long, pink-tinged stalks. Leave it unforced for a deeper and red-colored stem.

Delight Rhubarb – This variety has dark green and red color stems with a long harvesting season. It is particularly disease resistant. An everbearing variety that crops over a long period with good disease resistance.

Glaskins Perpetual Rhubarb – This is easy to grow and is one of the varieties that can be harvested, albeit lightly in its first year if you started it inside during the winter season.

Raspberry Red Rhubarb – It is easy to grow and harvested early without the need for forcing. It has a sweet flavor and has deep red thick stalks.

Victoria Rhubarb – These greenish-pink color stems have an excellent balance of sweetness and acidity. Once plants established, it will produce a heavy crop, year after year.

Giant Groove less Crimson – This plant produces a bountiful supply of tall, fully colored, bright red stems with a delicate acidic flavor.

Cherry red Rhubarb – It is one of the sweetest and least tart varieties around.

Timperley early – You can harvest ‘Timperley Early’ as early as February or March if you force it indoors. Growing up to 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall, this cultivar’s stalks are pinkish and pretty, with a delicious sweet-tart flavor.

German wine – The variety ‘German Wine’ is a hybrid that’s excellent for making, well, wine.  These ready for harvest from late spring to early summer season.

Hardy tarty – This cultivar grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide at maturity and loves a sunny spot in the garden.

Organic Soil Preparation for Growing Rhubarb

Rhubarb plant grows best in fast-draining soil with plenty of organic matter. The ideal pH level for the growing Rhubarb plant is about 5.5 to 6.5. Adjust and add a handful of bone meal fertilizer or seabird guano to the soil if it’s lacking in phosphorus. A second application of fertilizer once plant growth underway gives you strong broad stalks.

Rhubarb plant needs a good amount of nutrients to grow well. For growing Rhubarb plant, the best organic methods will include mixing lots of compost or composted manure into an area at least 12 inches deep and 3 feet in diameter. Mix in about 6 inches of compost or composted manure. Soil parameters must be considered when growing Rhubarb in containers. Adjust the pH level by using lime if it is too acidic and sulfur if it is alkaline. Ordinary garden soil from the back yard is not preferred. This soil contains a lot of weeds, fungus, bacteria, and other pathogens and pests that can harm your Rhubarb plant.

Purchase a good potting mix in your garden soil for growing Rhubarb. Invest in a good quality potting mix to help your plants grow healthy. The good potting mix sold in garden soil is made up of equal parts of pasteurized soil, perlite, vermiculite, or sphagnum moss as well as aged compost. Incorporate a good amount of compost to keep give the soil a good start.

Space Rhubarb plants about 4 feet apart and plant the roots about 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the soil. When preparing the planting hole, dig a deep, wide hole 18 inches deep and 18-24 inches wide and fill it with a 50:50 mix of compost or aged manure and good garden soil. Add a cup or two cups of all-purpose organic fertilizer and then place the roots in the hole. Be sure to mix rotted manure, compost, or anything high in organic matter in the soil.

Process of Growing Organic Rhubarb in Containers

Process of Growing Organic Rhubarb in Containers.
Process of Growing Organic Rhubarb in Containers.

Step 1) When growing Rhubarb in pots, the size of the container is very important. Rhubarb plant needs a lot of room for the roots to grow, so a small container is out of the question. A small container will result in your Rhubarb plant’s failure to thrive.

Step 2) No matter how much fertilizer and water you put it, the Rhubarb plant will still die because of restricted root growth. You can select a container that can hold 3 cubic feet of soil at the very least. You can grow twice as big if you want, but remember that you will be only planting one plant in one container.

Step 3) If your area is particularly hot, choose a light-colored container to prevent over-heating the plant roots. Dark-colored pots will be needed if you are in cooler climate areas. Plastic containers are ideal as they do not leach water from the Rhubarb plant. Do not select a container that will be too large for you to move. You need to place your Rhubarb plants inside the house before hard frosts have arrived.

Step 4) If you are going to try a container-grown Rhubarb plant, use a sturdy container that is at least 20 inches deep and wide. The larger the pot size, the larger the plant can grow. When growing Rhubarb in containers, the type of container isn’t important, but drainage holes are a must.

Step 5) If you are interested in trying your hand at growing Rhubarb plants in containers, be sure to use a lightweight, well-draining potting mix. Plant divisions or purchased Rhubarb crowns in the early spring season. Set the plant into a hole that is 1 to 3 inches deep and backfills around the crown. Set Rhubarb grown in containers in full sunlight for best results, although it will tolerate some light shade. Then, water the crown until it is wet but not sodden.

Step 6) Rhubarb is an easy plant to care for, whether grown in a container or the garden plot. Water near the soil to keep the plant leaves dry. You can also add 1 to 2 inches of mulch, like grass clippings or bark chips, on top to help retain water.

Step 7) Growing Rhubarb in the garden is quite self-reliant and doesn’t need any fertilization. Container grown Rhubarb can benefit from feeding every year before any signs of new growth in the spring. Use ½ cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer around the base of the plant and then water well. Remove any flowers that blossom in the spring season to allow all the plant’s energy to go into producing stalks. Then, cut the old stalks back in the fall once the leaves die back.

Rhubarb Plant Propagation for Growing Organically in Containers

You can start to grow Rhubarb plant in 3 different ways.  You can grow rhubarb from seed, you can buy a one-year-old Rhubarb plant, a baby Rhubarb plant is also called a Rhubarb crown or you can take a cutting of Rhubarb plant. 

Rhubarb plant is propagated by dividing existing plant crowns. Divide the crown of a healthy plant in the early spring season before growth starts and as soon as the soil can be easily worked. Dig deeply around the Rhubarb clump and then lift the entire plant out of the ground. Then, divide the clump into sections by cutting down through the crown between the buds. Each division should contain at least 1 or 2 buds and a large piece of the root system. Do not let them dry out. Then, set the divided section upright in the planting hole with the buds about 1 1⁄2 to 2 inches below the surface. Firm the soil around the Rhubarb plant, but not directly above the bud, and water thoroughly. Space Rhubarb plants about 3 feet apart.

Place new plantings where the plants will receive full sunlight and good water drainage. Avoid places near trees and shrubs. Established Rhubarb plants can be transplanted in the early spring and early fall season (mid-September through early October). Rhubarb transplanted in fall must be mulched with 8 to 12 inches of straw or other coarse material. The process of mulching provides additional time for the plants to get reestablished at their new site before the ground freezes.

Growing Organic Rhubarb from Seed in Pots/Containers

If you’re starting to grow Rhubarb plant from seed, if you soak your Rhubarb seeds in warm water for a couple of hours before sowing, then you’ll speed up seed germination. This loosens the casing around the seeds.  First, start your seeds off indoors about 3 months before the last frost is due. You can start the seeds in starter seed trays or small pots. You will want to put them about 6 centimeters deep in a hole that you can make with your finger. Cover them over and water them.  Now you’re going to want to leave them for 10 days to 2 weeks.

At about the 2-week mark, they will need to be transplanted into bigger pots. Keep them inside for now, but they will need sunshine and good watering, although don’t let them get waterlogged. When the risk of frost passes and your baby Rhubarb plants are 15 centimeters tall, then you’re ready to move them outside in bigger pots and begin “hardening them off”.  You do this by putting outside in a sunny but protected, area and each day increases the amount of exposure that the plants get. If you go from 2 hours to 8 over a week, then they’ll be ready to live outside in their forever place.

Growing Organic Rhubarb from a Division

Depending on the size of the division, you’ll want to put it in its “forever pot” or “forever place” as Rhubarbs don’t like being transplanted too much. Plant each division in the hole, leave the stalks and leaves uncovered, but make sure that the root ball is covered. Water thoroughly and find a sunny spot for your new Rhubarb plant.

Tips for Growing Organic Rhubarb in Containers

  • Select a site that is well-drained, fertile, and preferably in full sunlight.
  • The Rhubarb plant has a strong and deep root system, so the plant needs plenty of space to grow.
  • You can easily grow Rhubarb plant in a tub, container, or pot.  Rhubarb will last for years in the right environment and if the garden is small, or you are growing edible plants in a yard or patio, then growing Rhubarb in a container is a great way to make the best use of space.
  • The plant grows when temperatures are above freezing but below 23°C. Water the Rhubarb plant when the top 1 inch of soil feels dry and let the excess moisture drains freely.

Organic Fertilizer and Mulching Requirements for Growing Rhubarb

Rhubarb plant requires annual fertilizer applications for good growth and large yields. Although it will grow well in almost any soil, working organic matter or compost through the soil will benefit the Rhubarb plants. 

In late winter, rake up and compost old mulch and plant debris from the Rhubarb patch, and scatter a balanced organic fertilizer over the soil. Top the site off with thick organic mulch that will deter weeds until the Rhubarb plants leaf out. In late spring, after the plants show vigorous growth, watch for the emergence of huge flower clusters, and cut them off to keep Rhubarb plants from expending energy producing flowers and unwanted seeds. Use an all-purpose fertilizer such as the 10-10-10 formula works well. Compost or well-rotted manure also works well as a fertilizer for Rhubarb plants.

Water Requirements for Growing Organic Rhubarb Plants

Rhubarb plants respond well to moisture and adequate watering, however, most plants thrive with minimal or no extra watering. If your Rhubarb plant is getting too dry, water is well, about an inch every week. Watering needs to be “deep watering” to allow the plant roots to benefit. Rhubarb plant should not be overwatered because it is susceptible to crown rot. If you water your Rhubarb plant, do so early in the day to allow the surface of the soil around the plants to dry out during the rest of the day.

You should not miss this: How To Grow Vegetables At Home In Pots.

Organic Pests and Diseases Control in Rhubarb Plants

  • Pests are usually not a problem on Rhubarb plant in the home garden. However, the Rhubarb curculio causes serious damage to the leafstalks. If present, use short-lived, organic pesticides to control this problem.
  • Leaf spot disease has symptoms similar to anthracnose. Spots in leaves first appear water-soaked and then grow in size and take on a brownish or purplish-grey colour. It cannot be cured. Plants affected by leaf spot disease should be removed and destroyed.
  • Rhubarb plants with verticillium wilt are often affected early in Rhubarb season with yellow leaves. The beginning of this Rhubarb plant disease is often mistaken for a nutrient deficiency. Then as the Rhubarb disease progresses, the yellowed coloured leaves wilt and the edges and veins of the leaves die. Remove and then destroy plants.
  • Leaves of plants affected by spider mites become yellow and dry or have pale yellow colour spots caused by mites sucking chlorophyll out of the leaves. Spray plants with a forceful spray of water 3 times, every other day, to knock mites off. If that doesn’t do the job, spray the undersides of plant leaves with insecticidal soap at least three times at 5 to 7-day intervals.
  • Rhubarb plants infected with whitefly and the plants will be weak. The result of whitefly damage is yellow colour leaves that eventually die. Spray with insecticidal soap every 2 or 3 days for two weeks. As a last resort, spray plants with pyrethrum two times, three or four days apart.

When and How to Harvest Rhubarb

When you are ready to harvest Rhubarb, don’t harvest the young leaves the first year after planting Rhubarb, as this will not allow your plant to expand to its fullest. Therefore, wait until the second year and then harvest the young leaves of the Rhubarb once they expand. Never harvest all the stalks off your plant. Harvest your Rhubarb by cutting the stem at the base by using a sharp knife.

In case if you are interested in this: Organic Sunflower Production.


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