Rhubarb can be pretty frustrating to grow. But if done correctly, then you will have this lush, sweet tasting vegetable, which you can use in all sorts of dishes and desserts. On the one hand, if you ignore it completely, and just sort of let nature take its course, you almost always end up with too much rhubarb on your hands. Sometimes it feels like rhubarb just goes crazy. When you’re really trying to grow a flush crop of rhubarb it’s almost like every single one of the rhubarb growing problems that exist start to slam into your garden simultaneously.
Armed with the inside information below, though, you won’t have to worry about all that frustration ever again.
Yes, rhubarb is a pretty hardy perennial that (when ignored) seems like a real “set it and forget it” kind of plant to keep in your vegetable garden.
As soon as you start to focus on rhubarb, though, things just sort of go sideways. You start to bump into rhubarb growing problems like crown rot (and others) that wreak havoc on your rhubarb crop.
What Are the Most Common Rhubarb Growing Problems?
Crown rot is by far the most troublesome of the rhubarb growing problems you’ll want to get out in front of ASAP.
What happens here is the crown of this plant literally starts to rot (almost out of thin air), and the rot begins to move lower and lower into the stems – and other rhubarb plants – and kills it pretty quickly.
Pest damage is another of the common rhubarb growing problems you’ll have to contend with. Slugs and snails love to eat rhubarb – they absolutely love it – and will devastate a rhubarb harvest quicker than you thought possible.
Rhubarb diseases can take hold, too.
These usually manifest as little blisters that are sometimes sticky, and obvious sign that your rhubarb has a fungal growth that’s going to devastate the plant for sure.
How Can You Avoid Rhubarb Growing Problems?
The best way to avoid common rhubarb growing problems is to simply keep an eye on your plants, always staying vigilant for signs and symptoms that something is beginning to “go sideways”.
You don’t necessarily have to babysit your rhubarb, but you are going to want to check in at least every couple of days.
Look for pest damage, signs of crown rot, and other fungal infections so that you can stop these small problems before they snowball into major emergencies later down the line.
Treatments for Rhubarb Growing Problems
Thankfully, resolving these rhubarb problems is relatively simple and straightforward (for the most part).
Crown rot can be prevented by allowing your rhubarb to stand up to a bit of frost, hardening your plants (the leaves and the stems) against this kind of devastation.
Pest damage can be prevented entirely naturally or with commercial chemical concoctions, which is totally up to you, but we would recommend naturally.
Fungal infections are a little tougher to treat, but removing infected leaves during the growing season and making sure that the soil and water conditions your rhubarb gets are perfect will clear up most of those problems for you.
Signs That Your Rhubarb Has Growing Problems
Rhubarb will let you know pretty quickly when it’s starting to experience growing problems.
First, look at the healthiness and vibrancy of the plants themselves.
If they look strong, if they look vibrant, and if they look flavorful you probably don’t have much to worry about. If they look weak and limp, though, they’re going to need a little bit of doctoring up.
Second, be on the hunt for obvious signs of pest damage, rot, and bacterial infection. You’ll know almost right away that something’s wrong if there’s little holes, rot spots, or fungus on the leaves and stems of your rhubarb.
The moment that you notice something amiss you’ll want to swing into action (using the tips and tricks we highlighted above) to clear things up in a hurry.
Other Rhubarb Growing Problems
Rhubarb growing problems can be expansive. Some other reasons why rhubarb might not grow including the possibility of root rot and fungal diseases. – Rhubarb is a perennial plant, also known as pie plant or pie filling, and it requires specific growing conditions to thrive. In the spring, farmers force rhubarb plants by covering them with large pots or crates to produce an early crop. The leaves of the rhubarb are toxic if eaten, so farmers must use only the chopped stalks for their pies.
It takes one complete year for a rhubarb plant to produce an abundance of huge stalks, so farmers must be patient when they are trying to harvest rhubarb. Rhubarb needs a cold dormant period and a dormancy period in order for the plant to grow strong and healthy. Early spring is the time when farmers should make sure they take only a few stalks, leaving the rest on the plant so it can continue to grow. In the first year, anything taken from the rhubarb plant will reduce its growth and decrease its yield of stalks.
Root Rot – Rhubarb Growing Problems
To prevent root rot, plant your rhubarb plant in well-draining soil and make sure it is not overwatered. While planting more rhubarb plants in the same area will increase yields over the years, it can also increase the chance of dieback due to fungus, such as botrytis, which commonly grows on grown rhubarb plants. To prevent this from occurring, make sure you have well-drained soil that has been used for growing rhubarb for several years.
Root and crown rots are a rot-preventable catastrophe that can kill your rhubarb plants. The main culprit is an unusually wet spring, which can cause the rhubarb roots to rot and turn mushy, causing the leaves to wilt. Keeping soil well-drained, keeping the crown area dry, and rotating the type of plants you grow in the same spot every few years will help prevent root and crown rot in your rhubarb patch.
If you have a dying plant, the wilting leaves may be an indication of root or crown rot. While it’s tempting to produce pretty flowers, these flowers take energy away from the rhubarb plant and prevent it from producing more edible rhubarb stalks. When you want to recover your plants, trim off all flowers and turn your attention to the soil that rhubarb loves. Adding more iron to the soil can help increase your yields of rhubarb if there isn’t enough iron in the soil already. Testing your soil pH is also recommended because rhubarb needs a slightly acidic soil in order to produce well.
Nutrient Deficiency – Rhubarb Growing Problems
If your rhubarb plants have only produced small, thin rhubarb stalks instead of the large, thick stalks that are desired, it could be due to a few different reasons. Rhubarb is a hardy and resistant garden plant, but it can still fall victim to certain diseases and plant pests. Additionally, since rhubarb is a heavy feeder, it may need more nutrients than what is present in the soil. Organic matter like compost should be added in order to encourage growth. Discarded leaves should not be left around the base of the plants as they may contain high amounts of disease-causing organisms or pests that could spread to your plants.
Over Crowded Roots – Rhubarb Growing Problems
If you’re trying to reduce rhubarb growth, make sure your rhubarb roots are not overcrowded. When you draw your rhubarb, pick your rhubarb growth carefully so that the roots are not damaged in the process. Rhubarb is a hardy plant and can withstand drought conditions better than some other plants, but it still needs adequate moisture and nutrients to grow successfully. Rhubarb prefers ample water and can benefit from regular watering, especially during dry periods. Rhubarb has a sour flavor due to its high levels of oxalic acid, which is why it needs plenty of water for growth. Rhubarb is a cool weather plant and does not like hot, dry summers as these conditions cause the leaves to wilt quickly, reducing harvest yields significantly.
Well Drained Soil – Rhubarb Growing Problems
In order to have healthy propagation of rhubarb, established plants should be planted in well-drained soil. To prevent fungus, you can apply fungicide to the rhubarb plants and crowns when planting in early spring. If you are beginning with plant stock from your garden center, make sure the rhubarb crowns have a few roots and that they are not root bound. Once planted and watered correctly, the rhubarb begins the growth of its stalks within the first year of being planted. You should water your rhubarb at 7 day intervals, and if you notice leaves wilting, then increase watering frequency as this could be caused by crown rot. After 3-4 years, your rhubarb should be fully established and ready for harvesting in early spring. Just remember to leave some stalks on each plant so that it can keep growing year after year!