I have inherited a house with an old patch of rhubarb, around 4' x 2' which until the past two years has been bountiful and lush every spring, producing a lot of stalks. Last year it was unhappy and not lush at all so I didn't cut any, thinking it needed a year off of harvesting. This year I'm down to a small clump that is having issues, many leaves have yellowed before the stalks developed. Nothing has changed other than our weird weather. I don't see bugs crawling on it. What should I do? Can I buy rhubarb seeds and start new plants in the old bed, and when should I plant the seeds? I'm a newbie gardener so detail is appreciated.
Jefferson County Kentucky
The rhubarb you have inherited may simply need to be divided. The University of Kentucky’s Center for Crop Diversification explains it best “Rhubarb is a cool-season crop, thriving on a well-drained soil that is deep and high in organic matter. Beds should be free of perennial weed problems and deeply plowed. Applications of aged manure are very beneficial to rhubarb. Plantings are established vegetatively from vigorous, disease-free crown pieces, each with two or more buds. Rhubarb should be transplanted in early March in Kentucky. Rhubarb seed does not produce plants true to the parent so directseeding is not recommended. Plantings are normally rejuvenated every 8 to 10 years by dividing crowns and resetting.”
Divide the crowns you have or purchase new crowns to jumpstart rhubarb production on your property next spring. Crowns can be found in early spring in garden centers or ordered online from a variety of nurseries or available from catalogs.
Recommended rhubarb cultivars for Kentucky are:
These crowns will mature in 2-3 years.
Feel free to contact our office if you have other questions.
Let me know if I can help you further!
Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service
200 Juneau Drive
Louisville KY 40243