chellersMarch 13, 2014


I'm going to plant some rhubarb this year - first time (although I started some in my old garden and then moved so I have no idea how it has turned out!). Anyway, just wondering if you all have recommendations learned from your own rhubarb patches?

Favorite varieties? After a bit of research I'm thinking Valentine (OTooles had it last weekend). But I'm open to other suggestions if you've had great success with something else on the front range.

Also, the plant markers at OTooles said sun or part shade - I have a sunny spot picked out in my raised veggie bed, although I am a little loath to give up so much prime space to it. But has anyone had luck with it in part shade? (4-6 hours). Or, third option, would it do better or worse in a sunny summer bed that stayed shaded and frozen in the winter? (Part of my veggie bed gets decent sun during the summer but due to the angle of the sun gets shaded and stays frozen most of the winter).

Any advice would be appreciated!


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Michelle, I don't live in Colorado.

My 5 rhubarb plants grow well and productively each year. So did the mother plant that lived in what was then, my parents' backyard.

All of these plants are on the east side of a building and in afternoon shade.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 8:16AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Chellersm,

Mine is planted on the south side of a small shed, and just northeast of my two-story house. It's the sunniest spot I have (on my small lot), so it's also where the tomatoes and eggplant are. I just went looking for pics and discovered I've never taken a pic of the rhubarb, specifically to have a rhubarb pic! But I did find two pics with it in them! The first one shows how it's just east of a 6' fence, and I'm standing a couple feet away from the eat end of the house, so you can see there's not much space from the house to the plant. It gets morning sun as soon as the sun's high enough to get over the fence and then it gets sun till it moves behind the house (the sun, not the rhubarb!), and then it gets sun again late in the day when the sun gets past the west end of the house. In mid summer when the sun is really high it gets sun most of the day.

The second pic is just a closer up of the plant itself--which I took 'cause I was taking a pic of the species tulips I had planted around it! (Which never came up again the next year!)

I haven't figured out--yet--if I'm doing something wrong or what, but when it gets hot in summer I always have a problem with it wilting, BADLY, in the afternoon, no matter how wet I keep it. First I thought it was because it was planted in REALLY bad clay--it was one of the first things I put in, when I was trying to get all sorts of stuff done and wasn't taking time to do much to/for the soil, so a couple years ago I didn't dig up the actual plant, but I dug all the way up to the roots and virtually replaced the soil with mostly finished (homemade) compost. Really thought that would help with the soil's improved ability to hold moisture--but it still wilts, and I mean wilts so badly that the leaves start to get crispy! Last year I added a 3-4" layer of additional wood mulch--and it still wilted! I don't know what else to try, but I'm not giving up!

You can also see in the second pic that's it's already starting to go to seed--as soon as it's starting to grow! That happens every year too, and if anybody has any suggestions about how to stop that, I'd love to hear them! I just cut or twist the buds out, repeatedly, every year, but I'm sure I'd get more useable rhubarb if I could keep it from bolting! I tried feeding it heavily one year but it didn't help, but that was before I improved the soil, so I might try that again this year.

Mine is several plants together, a combination of whatever I had or could get! I know there's a couple 'Valentine' in there, but there's also some other variety(s) that are completely green! When I make some I add a little red food coloring--'cause rhubarb should be red--IMO! I'd get whatever the reddest variety you can find is! (It used to be 'Valentine'. Don't know if there's a better one now!)

Light-wise, my friend in Longmont has hers on the east side of her house and it's doing beautifully! I don't know if hers wilts or not, need to try to remember to ask her. She did say hers bolts too, and she does the same thing I do about that!

At this altitude I recommend partial shade, based on my experience! A cabin I stayed at in southwestern Wisconsin last year had a couple HUGE clumps of it, growing out in FULL sun all day, and they were doing wonderfully! But that was "Midwest sun!" She let me pull some to make some rhubarb sauce, and even let me use some of her sugar! My family in northern Illinois also grow theirs in FULL sun! More "Midwest sun!" When I was a kid I don't ever remember seeing our rhubarb wilting--which is why I keep thinking I must be doing something wrong, but more and more I'm beginning to think it's just a combination of our HOT sun and the "soil!" But at home in Illinois it seems to me that rhubarb was something we only harvested in spring, and then let it go to seed the rest of the summer! Does anybody else have any comments/ideas/suggestions about this wilting/bolting situation?!?

In my experience, what happens to it over winter doesn't make any difference at all! Frozen, melted--uh, I mean, thawed, or repeated freezing and thawing, rhubarb is TOUGH stuff and once you get it going it's gonna keep going, and going, and going........ Even with all my BAD clay and the wilting, I've never seen any indication that it suffered, longterm!

One more pic! Last year when we got that REALLY bad freeze in April, my rhubarb froze! Rhubarb doesn't freeze! (You can see it was already starting to bolt!) No real problem! It just took a while for it to recover--and start to bolt again--and start to wilt again! (I also had tulips, hyacinths, crocus, and other things freeze--that DON'T freeze!)

You're right that rhubarb will take up a LOT of space, especially after a few years! Because of my limited space I just keep outside leaves pulled off when they "get in the way." If you have anywhere where you can plant it out by itself and just let it do it's own thing, I highly recommend that!

Even with the problems I've had with mine, I wouldn't want to be without it!


    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 2:43PM
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Weather can affect it bolting. As soon as you see seed stalks pull them off or cut them off. Most people do not harvest after June and let the plant go. Stalks should be pulled not cut. Pulling the biggest and lowest and not more than 1/3 at a time. The more compost added the better. Planting them next to the compost heap is ideal. To freeze wash stalks and cut into slices and put in zip lock and freeze until ready to make pie, cobbler, cake sauce or desserts. They were called pie plant by the settlers as some years when most everything froze they still had rhubarb to make pies with.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 10:44PM
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The seriousness you are taking with this rhubarb plant tells me that you will find just the right place for it and the rhubarb will do exceeding well for you, Michelle.

With that in mind: would you like the recipe for rhubarb barbeque sauce that I experimented with this winter? It will only use up a little of your rhubarb at a time but the sauce was a hit with my family and won out over one with more traditional ingredients that I expected would be best. And . . . that one wasn't bad, either!


    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 6:16PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I'd be interested in your rhubarb barbecue sauce recipe(s), Digit! I can't decide if it sounds good or not, but it sure does sound interesting! I love experimenting with different and sometimes strange things for barbecue sauce, so I'm intrigued! (I have a Mennonite barbecue sauce recipe that doesn't have any tomato products at all in it!)

What do you use it on? Depending on what else is in it, it sounds like it could be great on chicken--which I eat a lot of! And I like rhubarb sauce with chicken better than cranberry sauce!


    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 7:14PM
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Thank you very much, your advice is much appreciated!
Skybird, those are great pics (I do love those tulips, so sad they didn't come back!)

I'm going to get the Valentine and plant it in two places - the part sun bed and the "cooler" veggie bed - we'll see how that goes. I'm optimistic!

Steve, I'd be very interested in the rhubarb barbecue sauce!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 1:50PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Rhubarb should do fine with 6 hours of sun a day. Mine is on the north side of the house, so it gets morning sun, then the house next door shades it in the late afternoon. I have two plants, and they do get huge. I have a red one, not sure of the variety, that I got at an RMG plant swap, and a mostly green one, that I started from seed called 'Victoria'. The green one actually has a better flavor to me, but like Skybird, I feel like rhubarb should be red ...

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 11:33PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Chellersm, I have one of those Garden Miracles going on this year! Those species tulips (Tulipa tarda - planted in '12) (which I planted around the rhubarb because I had found that they could be invasive so I didn't want to put them in a "regular" perennial bed) didn't come up AT ALL last year, so I assumed they were dead! This year, a little over a week ago, I found 4 or 5 of them coming up on the right side of the rhubarb! I don't know if more of them will come up around the plant or not, but I am glad to see at least a few of them this year! Now the mystery of where they were LAST YEAR! Garden Miracles are fun!!!

My rhubarb is just starting to poke its head up above the extra-thick layer of mulch I put around it last year too!


    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 7:25PM
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vegpatch(5 Colo)

I don't know what the variety is that is in my yard... pre-planted when moving in. :^) There are 2 plants whose red stalks easily reached 3ft and are located on the west side of the house. I'll be monitoring them this year to how fast they go to seed etc... but they did make it through the crazy weather last year with stalks still up in summer.

I'll be happy to send some when they come up.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 7:48PM
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