Those ruby-red stalks of rhubarb can be expensive and hard to find. Fortunately, you can grow your own.
Pick the right spot. Rhubarb plants need space—these perennials reach around three feet high and three feet wide. Plant them where they get full or part-day sun.
Plant early…plant small. Plant in spring as soon as the ground is no longer soggy. The hole should be several feet deep and wide. If the soil is gritty or unimproved, add compost, dehydrated cow manure or other organic matter. Start with clumps, called “divisions” or “crowns” separated from a large mother plant. You can purchase them in garden centers in early spring. Choose a division that has several buds, or “eyes.”
Nudge the growth. Feed and water rhubarb plants regularly during spring and summer. Give them a multipurpose fertilizer when watering (Miracle-Gro or fish emulsion), or spread manure or compost around each base every spring. Thick, round stalks that look different from the leaf stalks will emerge in late summer and produce plumes of white flowers. Remove these at their base.
Pace your harvesting. A rhubarb plant hits its stride by its third spring. The first year, the stalks will be too skinny, and harvesting them can set the plant back. Let them thicken for another year, and maybe pick some the following spring. By year three, the plant should provide thick red stalks. Prime cutting time is early summer. Harvesting tip: Twist and tug to yank a stalk, or slice off the stalk near the base.
Rhubarb plants tend to be productive for up to six years. Then you can divide your big plants into smaller ones.