Monday, 30 January 2012

Rhubarb: Divide and multiply

I’ve been growing rhubarb in my back garden for several years, moving clumps occasionally for various reasons (including when I moved house) and harvests have been plentiful bearing in mind the relatively small spaces given over to this crop.  My back garden clump has been in its present confined position for about five years and has become quite congested.  This situation happily coincided with my plans to grow rhubarb on my allotment so this weekend I set about dividing the rhubarb to make some new plants. 

Some guidelines I picked up regarding this task were:
  • to divide Rhubarb crowns after about 5/6 years in one position;
  • to do this in mid-winter when dormant, or early spring when you can distinguish where the growing buds are on the ‘crown’, thus making it easier to decide where to chop with the spade; and
  • that each divided crown section should have at least one growing bud (along with as much root as possible) which when transplanted should be just below ground level. 

In several places on forum websites I read that there is no need to fear this brutal act, that rhubarb crowns are tough and rarely does the process fail to produce viable new plants or invigorate long established and congested clumps.  I also read that Rhubarb is a crop which benefits from being frozen during winter and that one idea when transplanting rhubarb is to leave the crowns on the surface for few weeks to ensure they experience a good winter frost before planting in their intended growing positions. 

Having now prepared a space at the allotment I have left my new clumps in pots outside, to be planted either next weekend or whenever conditions are favourable over the next few weeks.  This year picking from the new clumps will be sparse in order to allow them to establish but I still have some undisturbed plants at home to supply my favourite rhubarb recipes (including the traditional crumble and rhubarb & ginger jam).  I will plant two of the new crowns about 3 feet apart, making sure to give them a good supply of manure.  The spares I can offer to neighbouring plot holders who have also recently taken on new plots. 
Thanks for reading.


  1. You can only do jam/jelly with Rhubarb, right? You can't eat it as I have heard it is poisonous.

    1. The stalks are fine to eat but the leaves contain oxalic acid which makes them poisonous. Most uses for rhubarb involve sweetening slightly with sugar and cooking as a dessert but some chefs use it as a tart (sour) accompaniment to some meat dishes.

  2. Hi Adam,

    I have awarded you the Versatile Blog Award. Please visit to accept it and see the rules. I hope you will do so. Thank You, KL