An essential addition to the perennial vegetable bed, rhubarb will produce year after year, and it’s easy to grow from seed. Just be patient for the first year and a half after sowing, as plants need to become established prior to the first harvest. Continue reading below for some of our top tips on how to grow rhubarb from seed.
Season & Zone
Season: Cool season
Exposure: Full sun
Zone: Hardy to Zone 2
Sow indoors in early spring and transplant or direct sow about 8 weeks after the last frost date where plants are to grow permanently. Optimal soil temperature: 16-25°C (60-75°F). Seeds should sprout in 5-10 days.
Sow 2cm (1″) deep, but plan for large plants. One plant will typically satisfy the needs of one household. Farm rows 100-120cm (36-48″) apart, plants 120 (48″) apart in the row.
Ideal pH: 6.0-6.8. Any well-drained, moderately fertile garden soil will do. Mulch around plants in fall with finished compost or well rotted steer manure. Choose a sunny spot. Rhubarb is cold hardy and drought tolerant. After growth stops in the fall, the plants go dormant, and require a period below 4°C (40°F) to stimulate good spring bud growth. In the second year, remove flower stalks as they appear. Divide plants every 4-5 years. A well maintained plant should produce for over a decade.
Do not harvest during the first year of growth. Cut the tart red stalks in spring after the first year of undisturbed growth. Do not eat the leaves. Stalks can be harvested all at once or selectively as required.
In optimal conditions, at least 50% of seeds will germinate. Usual seed life: 3 years.
Diseases & Pests
Pests: Watch for slugs around new seedlings. Otherwise, rhubarb is a tough, hardy plant with few pests.