Tips for Successfully Growing Rhubarb in Containers

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Tips for Successfully Growing Rhubarb in Containers

Have you ever wondered what to do with that empty space on your patio or balcony? Why not try growing rhubarb in containers? Rhubarb is a versatile and easy-to-grow plant that can thrive in pots. Whether you have limited space or simply want to add a pop of color to your outdoor area, container-grown rhubarb is an excellent choice.

One of the first things you need to consider when growing rhubarb in containers is the size and type of pot. Rhubarb plants have deep roots, so it is important to choose a container that is at least 18 inches deep. Make sure the pot has drainage holes at the bottom to prevent water from pooling and rotting the roots.

When planting rhubarb in containers, it is best to start with young crowns. These are the thick, fleshy roots from which the rhubarb plant grows. You can purchase crowns from a nursery or online. Once you have your crowns, fill the container with potting soil and plant them about 2 inches below the soil’s surface. Water the soil thoroughly and place the container in a sunny position where the plant will receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.

Harvesting rhubarb is really quite simple. When the plant is well-established, you can start harvesting the stalks. To do this, simply grasp the stalk near the base and gently twist it while pulling. It is important to leave a few stalks on the plant so it can continue to grow and produce more rhubarb. As a general rule, you should only harvest about one-third of the plant at a time.

Like any plant, rhubarb is not immune to pests and diseases. You should watch out for common garden pests like aphids and slugs, which can damage the leaves and spread diseases. To conserve moisture and deter critters, you can cover the soil with a layer of mulch. It is also a good idea to inspect your rhubarb plant regularly for any signs of disease or pest infestation.

Growing rhubarb in containers is a great way to enjoy this delicious and nutritious vegetable even if you don’t have a traditional garden. By following these tips and providing your rhubarb with the right conditions, you can have a plentiful harvest that will add a touch of tangy flavor to your cooking. So why not give it a try and start growing your own rhubarb today?

How to Grow Rhubarb in Containers

Growing rhubarb in containers is a great option for those with limited space or for beginners who want to try their hand at gardening. Rhubarb is a hardy perennial that can be grown in pots or containers on a patio or balcony. Here are some tips on how to grow rhubarb in containers:

Choosing the right container: Rhubarb plants need a deep container, at least 18 inches wide and 18 inches deep, to allow the roots to grow properly. A pot made of plastic, wood, or terracotta is best, as they provide good drainage for the plant.

Planting the rhubarb: Fill the container with a well-drained potting mix, leaving enough space for the rhubarb plant. Plant the rhubarb crowns, with the buds facing up, slightly below the soil surface. Space each plant at least 3 feet apart to allow for proper growth.

Caring for the rhubarb: Water the plants regularly to keep the soil evenly moist, especially during dry spells. Rhubarb plants prefer full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. Keep in mind that rhubarb is a cool-season crop and doesn’t like much heat, so it’s best to grow it in a spot that gets morning sun and afternoon shade.

Harvesting the rhubarb: Resist the temptation to harvest rhubarb in its first year. This allows the plant to establish itself and develop a strong root system. In the second year, you can start harvesting a few stalks, but make sure to leave at least half of the plant intact. After the second year, you can start harvesting rhubarb regularly.

Winter care: In colder climates, rhubarb plants will go into dormancy during winter. To protect them from frost, cover the pots with a layer of straw or horticultural fleece. This will help conserve moisture and prevent the plants from freezing. Remove the cover in early spring when the danger of frosts has passed.

Additional tips: Rhubarb plants benefit from a layer of organic mulch, such as compost or well-rotted manure, applied in early spring. This helps to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and provide nutrients to the plants. Avoid overcrowding the container with other plants, as rhubarb needs space to spread and grow.

By following these tips, you can successfully grow rhubarb in containers and enjoy a bountiful harvest of this delicious and versatile plant!

Planting Rhubarb Plants

When growing rhubarb plants, it’s important to choose a warm and sunny position for your potted container. Rhubarb is a hardy plant, but starting with seedlings or crowns are the easiest way to get a healthy crop.

If you wish to start from seed, sow them indoors in early spring. Plant the seeds to a depth of one inch and keep the soil well-moistened. Once the seedlings have grown to a suitable size, you can transplant them into your container.

For container-grown rhubarb, choose a large planter with good drainage. Fill it with a soil-based compost and leave a few inches of space from the top. Ensure that the planter is well-mulched to retain moisture and discourage weed growth.

Rhubarb plants are known for their vigorous growth, so it’s important to give them enough space. A large container with a 15 to 18-inch diameter can accommodate one or two plants. If you have limited space, you can still grow rhubarb in smaller containers, but the yield may be less.

The best time to plant rhubarb is in the early spring or late autumn when the weather is cool. Make sure to position the crowns or seedlings at the same level as they were when previously grown, and keep about five feet of space between each plant.

It’s essential to provide rhubarb plants with enough attention and care to ensure a successful harvest. Rhubarb goes through a dormant period during winter, or in areas that experience frost. During this time, you can cover the plants with a thick layer of mulch or even move the containers to a frost-free area.

When it comes to harvesting rhubarb, it’s recommended to wait until the second or third year after planting it. This allows the rhubarb plant to establish a strong root system. Remember not to harvest more than half of the plant, as it needs some leaves to continue growing and producing energy.

One thing to keep in mind is that rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which can be toxic if consumed in large quantities. Therefore, it’s important to remove and discard the leaves before using the rhubarb stalks in your kitchen.

With proper planting and care, your rhubarb plants will thrive in their container, producing fresh stalks for many years to come. By following these simple guidelines, you can enjoy the delicious taste of homegrown rhubarb and even have enough for your second crops.

For more information on growing rhubarb in containers, check out the links below:

How to Propagate Rhubarb Plants

Propagating rhubarb plants can be done in several ways, including from seedlings and by dividing existing plants. Here are some tips to help you successfully propagate rhubarb and grow your own plants at home.

Dividing Plants: One way to propagate rhubarb plants is by dividing existing plants. This is usually done in late winter or early spring, before the plants start to actively grow. Start by digging up the rhubarb crown, which is the thick, fleshy base of the plant. Divide the crown into sections, making sure that each section has at least one bud and a few healthy roots. Replant the divided sections in containers or in the ground, making sure the buds are just above the soil surface.

From Seedlings: If you want to start growing rhubarb plants from seeds, you can purchase them from a garden center or collect seeds from mature plants. To propagate rhubarb from seeds, sow them in pots or seed trays filled with potting soil. Lightly cover the seeds with soil and keep them warm, ideally at a temperature of around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds will usually germinate within a few weeks. Once the seedlings have grown a few inches tall, you can transplant them into larger containers or directly into your garden.

Seasonal Care: Rhubarb plants require attention and care throughout the growing season. They need to be watered regularly, especially during dry periods. Mulching the soil around the plants can help conserve moisture and reduce weed growth. Rhubarb plants also benefit from a layer of mulch in the winter to protect their crowns from frost damage. Return the mulch in the spring when the plants start to grow again.

Harvesting Tips: When it comes to harvesting rhubarb, it’s important to know what to look for. Harvesting can be done in the second or third year after planting, as the plants need time to establish. To harvest, simply pull or cut the stalks at the base, leaving the emerging stalks untouched. It’s best to harvest rhubarb stalks when they are about 10-15 inches long. Although the leaves are toxic and should not be eaten, the stalks are edible and can be used in various recipes.

Growing rhubarb in containers is a quick and easy way for any gardener, whether you have a large garden or a small kitchen planter, to enjoy this tasty perennial crop. With a little attention and care, you can have a bountiful harvest of rhubarb plants without the need for a large garden space.

Caring for Your Rhubarb Plants

Once you have chosen the containers where you will be growing your rhubarb plants, it is important to know how to properly care for them. Rhubarb is a hardy plant that can be relatively low-maintenance, making it a great choice for beginners.

If you wish to force your rhubarb, a technique used to encourage early growth, you can cover the chosen container with a dark plastic or an upturned bucket. This will help keep out light and stimulate the plant to grow quicker. However, if you are simply growing rhubarb for later harvest, you can leave the containers uncovered.

One important aspect of caring for rhubarb is providing mulching. Rhubarb plants prefer slightly acidic soil, and mulching with organic materials such as compost or well-rotted manure can help maintain the desired pH level. Mulching also helps to conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.

Rhubarb plants require regular watering, especially during dry periods. Make sure to water the plants thoroughly, ensuring that the moisture reaches the roots and does not just stay on the surface. Be mindful not to overwater, as rhubarb plants do not tolerate soggy soil.

If your rhubarb plants are grown in containers, you may need to pay extra attention to their nutrient needs. Container-grown plants may require an occasional boost of fertilizer to ensure they have sufficient nutrients for healthy growth. Choose a fertilizer high in nitrogen to promote leafy growth.

Harvesting rhubarb can be a rewarding experience. When the stalks are around 12-18 inches long, they are ready to be harvested. To harvest, simply grab the stalk near the base and gently pull it down and to one side. The whole stalk should come out easily. Avoid cutting the stalks as it may result in disease. Harvesting can usually be done once the plants are established, which typically takes around two years.

It is worth noting that rhubarb stalks are the edible part of the plant, while the leaves are toxic. The leaves contain oxalic acid, which can be harmful if consumed in large quantities. Therefore, it is important to handle the leaves with care and keep them away from children and pets.

Overall, caring for rhubarb plants is relatively simple. They require regular watering, mulching to conserve moisture, and occasional fertilizing. Whether grown in containers or in the ground, watching over your rhubarb plants will ensure a bountiful harvest. With proper attention and care, you can enjoy the delicious and versatile stalks of rhubarb in your favorite recipes.

For more information on caring for and harvesting rhubarb, you can check out the following resources:

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.