How To Grow Rhubarb In A Container

Newly planted green rhubarb in a container.

Rhubarb stalks are loved by many to sweeten various kinds of desserts. This plant can also live from ten to fifteen years long. Enjoying a homemade delicious rhubarb pie isn’t impossible even for people who have backyards with limited space.

Rhubarb can be grown in containers and is quite easy to care for like many other plants. Though rhubarb tolerates some partial shade, it is best grown in full sunlight for optimum results. Check out our guide below.


Growing Rhubarb in Containers

Growing rhubarb in containers requires a pot large enough to accommodate the plants.

Aside from considering its width, the depths of the container should be your primary concern in picking one for your plant, as rhubarb has a root system that is more extensive compared to others.

When grown in container pots, rhubarb requires more spacious holders. Any kind of materials sturdy enough with holes is excellent to use, but a suitable container should be at least 20 inches deep and equally wide.

Rhubarb is a cool-weather perennial hardy to zones 3-8. It can produce tasty desserts and preserves for ten to fifteen years long if grown healthy.

Growing rhubarb in containers requires an enriched well-draining potting mix, and adding some compost is beneficial too.


How To Care For Container Grown Rhubarb

Growing rhubarb in a black plastic container.
Image by: jacksonsnurseries.co.uk
  • Keep the leaves dry when you water the plants.

Keep in mind to keep the leaves dry to avoid rot when watering the plants.

Many gardeners who planted rhubarb in the garden used drip irrigation to avoid leaf rot, and rhubarb grown in containers is no exception.

  • Add mulch.

Adding mulch like hay or grass clippings about 1-2 inches can help retain the soil moisture.

  • Add fertilizers.

Rhubarb is a self-reliant type of plant and doesn’t need fertilization if grown in the garden. However, container-grown rhubarb can benefit from feeding once a year by using ½ cup of 10-10-10 around the base of the plant before any signs of growth in the spring.

  • Snip off unnecessary flowers.

To encourage the plant into producing stalks, remove any flowers that bloom in the spring and chop old trunks in the fall when leaves show signs of dying.

  • Let the plant feel the chill.

Rhubarb loves the cold weather, so avoid covering the crown when adding mulch and compost.

  • Produce more plants

Splitting the plants every 5-6 years can encourage the generation of robust stalk outputs.

  • Water well

Rhubarb needs sufficient moisture, particularly during summer.

  • Remove seeds

As soon as the seed stalks appear, remove them promptly.

  • Beware of toxic leaves.

Unlike stalks, rhubarb leaves contain harmful oxalic acid, so keep in mind to watch out, particularly for your children and pets.

After harvesting the stalks, you can trim the leaves away from the stems and toss them in your compost heap.


Planting Bare-Root Rhubarb

Rhubarb bare-root in spring starting to grow.

Another popular option for rhubarb propagation is through the use of bare-root. Of course, growing from seeds and buying potted plants is fine too, but planting bare-root rhubarb has a slight difference between the other ways. Alright, let’s learn more information about rhubarb bare-root.

What is Bare-Root Rhubarb?

A bare-root rhubarb looks similar to woody dried roots dusted with a chemical treatment to prevent molds. It is often less expensive compared to potted perennials.

When is the Right Time to Plant Rhubarb?

Rhubarb is most suitable to plant during the cold dormant times to lessen the threats of transplant shock. But most regions plant rhubarb in the fall and early spring.

Once planted, rhubarb starts to flourish when the soil temperatures reach above 40 °F.  However, keep in mind that rhubarb doesn’t grow well in temperatures over 90 ° F.

How to Plant Bare-Root Rhubarb

Newly growth rhubarb from bare-root.

  • Prepare the container wide and deep enough for your plant.
  • Add soil amendments such as compost or well-rotted manure.
  • Ensure to use loose soil to allow the roots to expand more effortlessly.
  • Plant the rhubarb and place the container in a sunny spot with at least 6 hours of full sun.
  • Place the container at least 3 feet apart if you plant more than one.
  • Water thoroughly.

Harvesting Your Rhubarb

Freshly harvest rhubarb stalks.

When to Harvest

Resist the temptation to harvest the stalks of your rhubarb during the first year to let your plants fully establish themselves. 

However, you can harvest the plant in the second year onwards from April to June. This is when the leaves are fully displayed, and the stems are about 30 cm long. 

As the plants need to regain energy for the next year, complete the harvest up until July only.

Don’t worry if you picked a lot more than you can use for the moment. This plant preserves well. Pickling is also an excellent way to extend the shelf-life of your rhubarb.

How to Harvest

  • From the base of the stem, grab and pull the stalks away from the crown with a gentle twist.
  • If this method doesn’t work, you can chop the stalk.
  • Ensure to throw the leaves away.
  • Harvest just a few stems at a time, as cutting half of the available stalks weakens its health.

Rhubarb Pest Problems

Two rose beetles attacking rhubarb flowers.

Rhubarb growers mostly encounter problems like crown rot. Fungi or bacteria either from infected soil or from overwatering could kill the plant if neglected.  To address this problem, try to remove the affected areas promptly to save the plants.

Other pests you can find in your rhubarb plants are snails, slugs and other garden critters.
Gardeners have different ways to deal with them, either by using eggshells as barriers, beer traps, sawdust, copper tape,  or even the use of biocontrols. You should keep an eye and deal with them promptly to avoid infestation.


Transplanting Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a hardy plant and somewhat easy to transplant. Transplanting means splitting the plant to provide another plant but not eliminating it from the original spot.

Uprooting rhubarb is challenging as most growers know the risks of damaging the plant is high. You can plant the newly split rhubarb separately to a new container, but keep the mother plant in its original place.


Forcing Rhubarb into Ripening

If you’re craving for a pie and looking for an early harvest, forcing your rhubarb may grant your wishes.

Rhubarb grown outdoors can be sweeter and harvested earlier through the process called forcing.

Covering the plants with a large container to generate more heat prevents light from reaching the plant, which can make the rhubarb grow and be ripened earlier than usual.

Large terracotta pots are commonly used by many gardeners to cover the plants.  Covering the plants at the first signs of growth is an effective strategy.

The lack of light, along with the heat from the terracotta covering forces the rhubarb to ripen and be ready to eat within 3-4 weeks. The plant is ready to harvest when the stalks reach the top of your container.

Using a dark-colored bucket can also help generate more warmth as it absorbs from the winter sun.


Seasonal Advice in Growing Rhubarb

Young rhubarb plant in a garden.

Getting to know more about how to approach your rhubarb in different seasons can go a long way to help you produce plenty of crops.

For Spring

Remove the flowers to stop the plant from using its energy on growing the flowers. You can toss a small amount of fertilizer to boost plant growth.

For Summer

Rhubarb in containers quickly dry out, so it is essential to water the plants thoroughly, particularly during drought.

For Autumn

Adding mulch and high-quality compost around the crown to help retain the soil moisture and keep the weeds away is best to apply at this season. Do not cover the rhubarb crown to avoid root rot.

For Winter

It is best to split your rhubarb plants into 3-4 pieces and replant them separately in the winter. Dividing your rhubarb after 5-6 years will encourage them to grow healthy and be productive.


Types of Rhubarb

An exotic variety of rhubarb with long red stalks.

Other varieties of rhubarb thrive better in certain regions. Many growers opt for the deep red petiole, but this type of rhubarb is less productive compared to other greener varieties.

Here is a list of the 9 best and commonly available rhubarb in the market.

1) Canada Red

This type of rhubarb has juicy stalks that keep its cherry red color when cooked. It has sweet and tender stems that are popular in Canada.

2) Crimson Cherry

This type of rhubarb has red stalks inside and out and is a vigorous grower too. It thrives well in colder regions but requires full sun and can tolerate partial shade in warmer climates.

3) Sunrise

Sunrise has thick, high-quality stalks that are also good for forced growing.

4) German Wine

German wine is one of the sweetest varieties of rhubarb that thrives well in sunny locations.

5) Victoria

Victoria is famous for forced growing. It is the most productive variety that has crimson stalks and thrives well in cooler locations with full sun and warmer climates.

6) Valentine

Valentine is also a vigorous grower that has long and thick red stalks that retain its color even when cooked.

7) Raspberry Red

This type of rhubarb is a hardy and has a sweet taste that prefers full sun but with an average growth rate. It has scarlet thick leaf stalks.

8) Riverside Giant

Riverside giant is a hardy plant that has thick long green stalks that is also a vigorous grower.

9) Macdonald

Macdonald is also known as Macdonald’s Canadian Red and Macdonald Crimson. It is a wilt and root rot-resistant that has large bright red stalks and a widely available variety.


Final Thoughts On Growing Rhubarb in a Container

There you have all the information needed to now grow your precious rhubarb in a container. You also know on the plus side that limited backyard space can’t be a hindrance to you if you wish to enjoy a natural rhubarb pie.

Have you tried planting rhubarb in containers? Tell us about your experience by writing in the comment section below. We’re always more than happy to know your thoughts.

About Benita Abucejo

Hi there! My name is Benita Abucejo. What can I say? I truly love spending my days in the outdoors, specifically in the garden. Gardening has always been a strong passion of mine since I was a little girl. It has brought me so much joy and happiness that it is definitely safe to say that I will be a gardener for life. For a period of time, I was able to work with people who are into home gardening and I found it to be quite beneficial to my physical health, as well as my mental well-being. Here at Seasonal Preferences, I am going to share with you my experience and ideas so that you can fulfill yourself with the same satisfaction and happiness. Of course, if you have ideas, I would love to hear those as well! Being creative in the garden can really be quite fascinating so let's share our experiences and be the best gardeners we can be. With that being said, thank you for dropping by and please leave me a comment on one of my posts if you would like to get in touch!

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