Transplanting Rhubarb

A Quick Guide to Transplanting Rhubarb

Rhubarb pie is an absolute delight, and a great way to ensure the freshest and most natural ingredients is by transplanting rhubarb in your own garden.

Not only is rhubarb a popular fruit for pies and desserts, but it also makes fantastic juice or jam. It can generally grow anywhere and is very low-maintenance which is certainly a big advantage for those with a busy lifestyle.

Transplanting rhubarb is really easy, but a few things have to be considered to ensure a successful harvest. Firstly, it is very difficult to start off with seeds and attempt to grow a plant that way- it is much easier to purchase well developed roots from a professional gardener and use that to begin with. Secondly, rhubarb needs space and you should allow at least 1sqm for the plant as it needs room to stretch its large green leaves. On the bright side, the plant is likely to stay in that position for several years without uncontrolled spreading all over the garden.

Although rhubarb will grow for many years, it is best to replace the old plant after 6 to 10 years. Thirdly, the ground conditions are crucial and transplanting rhubarb is ideally done into soil which is permeable. Once ground and space are sorted out, the only thing left to do is wait for the right season, which is spring or early autumn. The advantage of transplanting rhubarb in early autumn is that it has time to strengthen its roots just before the winter kicks in and will blossom beautifully in spring. Nevertheless, if you live in a climate zone with very rough autumns and winters, it is best to plant the rhubarb in March.

After the transplantation process is completed, there is not much to do throughout the year and the rhubarb will virtually grow on its own. It is important to always keep it damp and make sure it has space which means cleaning up any leaves and blossoms that may obstruct the growth. A ripe and fully grown rhubarb plant can also donate a root which can be used to plant another one. This requires a deep dig to get a complete portion of the root system which can be cut off with a sharp knife. Two buds is a good number to start with and remember to leave 1 or even 1.5m distance between the plants.

Choose a sunny spot and avoid shady areas with many trees as rhubarb needs a lot of light to grow. The root should not be completely soaked in water before re-planting as it may mould, but it must not be dry either. Water the new plant regularly and a deep soaking is recommended approximately every 10 days which largely depends on your climate zone. After the plant has successfully grown for two seasons, you and your family will be able to enjoy delicious rhubarb spring desserts for at least 4-6 weeks every year.

It is recommended not to harvest during the first year and allow the plant to grow and gain strength. A good way to ensure this is by using an organic fertiliser or manure to enjoy a natural taste and healthy fruit.  In the second year you may enjoy the rhubarb from April onwards by twisting it off the stem and avoiding the use of a knife.

It is also possible to grow rhubarb in pots for those who have no access to a private garden. However, it can take much longer until actual harvest is possible due to the restrictions in a pot and the unfamiliar conditions that the plant encounters when kept indoors. Since there is often an over-production of rhubarb when it is in season, it is actually a great idea to share it by transplanting rhubarb in a family or friend’s garden.