How to Grow Rheum Plants

Guide to Growing Rhubarb and Sorrel Rhubarb

Rheum are hardy perennials that are often used in cookery.

They are large plants, that can reach from 90 cm to 2.5 m (3 to 8 feet) in size.

Rheum plants have large toothed leaves. They carry small white flowers atop edible stalks.

Some common names for Rheum are Rhubarb and Sorrel Rhubarb.

Rheum (Rhubarb) by OliBac.

If you are planning to grow Rhubarb for use in cooking, then it is best to grow from rootstock as these will provide better flavour than seed grown rhubarb.

The Rhubarb stalks can be harvested from the second year of growth onwards. They should not be harvested later than July.

Commonly Grown Rheum Species Photographs and Plant Identification

Rheum palmatum

Rheum palmatum
Rheum palmatum (Ornamental Rhubarb / Chinese Rhubarb), photograph by Leonora (Ellie) Enking; CC.

Rheum rhaponticum

Rheum rhaponticumBabij; CC.

Rheum officinale

Rheum officinale
Rheum officinale (Indian Rhubarb), picture by Laurent Neyssensas; CC.

Rheum Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Rhubarb, False rhubarb, Sorrel rhubarb.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
  • Height: 36 to 96 inches (90—240 cm).
  • Native: Europe, Asia.
  • Growing Region: Zones 5 to 9.

  • Flowers: Summer.
  • Flower Details: Green-white, rose, red. Small.
  • Foliage: Herbaceous. Triangular. Large. Toothed. Grown for their tart tasting stalks, and for ornamental purposes.

  • Sow/Growing Outside: Do not grow from seed if growing for culinary purposes.
    Seeds: 1/4 inch (6 mm). About one month before the last frost.
    Roots: Include buds. 1 to 2 inches (3 to 6 cm).
  • Sow/Growing Inside: Germination time: three to six weeks. Temperature: 63 to 65°F (17—18°C). Ten weeks in advance. Transplant outdoors when there is still a chance of a light frost or towards the end of autumn. As there is a large variation in size space at 12 inches (30 cm) to 60 inches (150 cm) apart depending on size. Ornamental varieties are usually grown singly.

  • Requirements and care: Full sunlight or light shade. Deep soil. Rich and moist soil. Mulch to maintain moisture. Provide a complete spring feed, and a weak feed every two weeks thereafter through the growing season.
    Regular watering during dry periods. Water during prolonged dry spells. Regular watering during periods of growth. Cut back flower inflorescences to the ground once blooming has completed in the first year. Remove inflorescences as they appear in subsequent years.
    Do not harvest stalks in the first year. Do not harvest later than mid-summer (late July in the Northern hemisphere). Propagate: by dividing by dividing in the spring.

  • Family: Polygonaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Knotweed.
  • Miscellaneous: Rhubarb has laxative properties. Extracts of Rheum officinale are used to create the arthritis medication rheum. Although Rhubarb is a vegetable, with the leaf petiole/stalk being eaten, it is classified as a fruit in the USA. Takes from two to to five years to reach full height.

How to Grow Rhubarb

It is best to grow Rhubarb from root stock if you plan to use them for culinary puproses. These these should be planted at about 3 to 5 cm (1 to 1 1/2 inches) deep.

If growing Rhubarb and other Rheum members as decorative plants, then they can be grown from seed.

Plant the seeds about 6 mm (1/4 inch) deep. Do so about a month before the last frost of spring is expected.

Rheum can be very big plants, so space them from 40 cm (16 inches; small varieties) to 1.5 m (5 feet; larger Rheum members) apart.

Rhubarb can grow in either sunny or partially shaded parts of the garden. They prefer a rich and moist soil. It is important that the soil that Rheum plant species grow in is very deep.

If starting Rhubarb off indoors, then do so about 2 months in advance. Plan to transplant out in late autumn, or before the last frost of spring.

It should take from three to six weeks for Rheum to germinate, at 15 to 18 degrees Celsius (59 to 64°F).

Caring for Rhubarb and Other Rheum genus Members

To grow Rhubarb and other Rheum species successfully takes a little effort.

They should be fertilized every two weeks with a weak fertilizer solution.

Apply a mulch to protect them from heat, and water frequently to keep the soil moist.

If you require more Rhubarb plants, then they can be propagated by division in the spring.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Rheum plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Prickly Rhubarb, Chinese cabbage, Lima Beans, and Polygonum plants.