Growing Rhubarb in Containers: The Ultimate Guide To Potted Rhubarb

Growing Rhubarb in Containers: The Ultimate Guide To Potted Rhubarb

In this article, we’re diving into all things potted rhubarb. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting to get your hands dirty, this guide is brimming with tips and tricks. We’ll walk you through selecting the perfect pot, concocting the ideal soil mixture (hint: it’s about as crucial as the secret sauce in your favorite dish), and nurturing your plants all the way to harvest.

Ready to embark on a rhubarb rendezvous? Let’s transform your gardening dreams into leafy greens and crimson reds with a container garden that would make even the most spacious of plots a tad envious. Roll up your sleeves—it’s time to give growing rhubarb in containers a go!

This article contains affiliate links to some of our favorite products we use for growing rhubarb. We have used all of the products mentioned, and can attest to their usefulness and quality as it pertains to rhubarb plants. We earn a small commission from purchases made through these links, thank you SO much for your support!

1. Why Choose Containers for Growing Rhubarb?

Container gardening has become increasingly popular, especially in urban areas. It offers many benefits and is a perfect fit for growing rhubarb. Let’s explore why this method is so special.

Control Over Growing Conditions

Container gardening provides unparalleled control over the environment in which your plants grow. This is particularly advantageous for rhubarb, a perennial plant that thrives in cool weather and is typically grown in USDA zones 3-8. Here’s how container gardening helps:

  • Soil Composition: You can customize the soil mix specifically for rhubarb, ensuring it has the right nutrients and drainage.
  • Moisture Levels: Containers allow you to regulate watering more precisely, preventing issues like root rot or drought stress.
  • Sunlight Exposure: By choosing the right location or moving the containers as needed, you can provide optimal sunlight conditions for your rhubarb.
  • Temperature Control: Containers can be easily moved indoors or to shaded areas during extreme heat or cold spells, protecting your plants.

Easy Pest and Disease Management

If you’re accustomed to growing plants directly in the ground, you’ll appreciate how much simpler it is to deal with pests and diseases when using containers. Here are a few advantages:

  • Targeted Watering: Watering at the base of the plant instead of overhead helps prevent fungal leaf rot, a common issue for rhubarb.
  • Improved Air Circulation: Placing containers strategically allows for better airflow around the plants, reducing the risk of fungal infections.
  • Isolation Capability: If one plant gets infected, it’s easier to isolate and treat it when it’s in a container, preventing further spread.

Space-Saving Solution

Another reason to consider container gardening for rhubarb is its ability to thrive in small spaces. With the right pot size (preferably deep pots with drainage holes) and a sunny spot, you can grow this delightful plant even on a compact balcony or patio!

Bright Lane Gardens has a comprehensive guide on How To Grow Strawberries In Containers, which offers valuable insights into mastering container gardening with another popular fruit. Additionally, their Soil Types Chart can help you understand your soil needs better.

Now, let’s move on to gathering the right tools and materials for your container-grown rhubarb.

2. Getting Started: Selecting the Right Container and Soil for Your Rhubarb

Success in growing rhubarb in containers begins with choosing the right container and soil. Let’s delve into what you need to know.

Container Size for Rhubarb

When it comes to the container size for rhubarb, go big! Rhubarb plants have large root systems, so a deep and wide container is necessary for healthy growth. Aim for a container that’s at least 20 inches in diameter and depth. Drainage is key as well; look for pots with ample drainage holes to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to rotting roots.

Soil Requirements for Potted Rhubarb

So, you’ve got your ideal container. Now, let’s talk about the soil requirements for potted rhubarb. Rhubarb prefers well-draining soil, making a potting mix enriched with compost an excellent choice. The compost not only improves drainage but also provides essential nutrients for the plant’s growth.

Here are some quick tips for preparing your container:

  1. Fill your pot with a well-draining potting mix. We love this organic potting mix by Fox Farm for our outdoor containers and raised beds.
  2. Mix in a good amount of compost to enrich the soil.
  3. Ensure the mixture fills up to about 2 inches from the top of the pot.

It might be tempting to use garden soil, but resist that urge! Garden soil can compact in containers, leading to poor drainage and potentially causing root diseases.

If you’re interested in further enhancing your gardening skills, consider making your own compost. Compost is an essential soil amendment that can greatly benefit your plants’ health and growth.

Additionally, if you’re concerned about deer damaging your vegetable garden, we have some effective tips and tricks on keeping deer out of your garden. Deer can be quite voracious and pose a threat to your plants, but with the right strategies, you can protect your garden from their appetite.

Ready? Great! You’re set to move on to planting techniques for containerized rhubarb.

Bright red stalks of container grown rhubarb.

3. Planting Techniques for Containerized Rhubarb

Ready to get your hands a little dirty? Planting rhubarb crowns in pots is an exciting journey toward lush, harvest-ready stalks. Let’s dive into the details of planting these promising crowns and set the stage for a thriving rhubarb plant in your container garden.

Step-by-Step Guide to Planting Rhubarb Crowns

1. Select Your Timing: Aim for early spring planting, when the soil is just beginning to warm up.

2. Prepare the Crown: Before you plant, ensure that the rhubarb crown is healthy with at least one or two good buds. We recommend starting with a bare root crown, like this crimson rhubarb crown!

3. Planting Depth:

  • Make a hole in the center of your container’s soil, setting it to a depth where the top of the crown is just 1-3 inches below the soil surface.
  • Cover the roots with soil while keeping those promising buds just peeking out.

4. Spacing & Positioning:

  • If your container can handle more than one plant, give each crown ample space—at least 30 inches apart—so they won’t compete for nutrients and sunshine.
  • Position them well by placing each crown in the center of its own space, ensuring even growth and airflow around all sides.

By following these steps, you’re not only creating a cozy home for your rhubarb but also giving it the best start possible.

While planting rhubarb crowns in pots might be practical, there’s no reason it can’t also contribute to the aesthetic appeal of your garden.

You can explore ways to blend functionality with beauty by checking out Top 5 Ways To Create A Decorative Garden at Bright Lane Gardens.

Also, don’t forget that high-quality garden soil is crucial for any plant’s success. If you’re interested in enriching your own mix specifically for your green companions, learn how to make it at How To Make Your Own Garden Soil.

4. Essential Care for Container Rhubarb

Let’s dive into the details of how to keep your container rhubarb plants healthy and thriving. There are three key things to focus on: sunlight, watering, and mulching.

Sunlight Requirements for Container-Grown Rhubarb

Rhubarb loves the sun, even when it’s in a container. Make sure your plant gets at least six hours of full sunlight each day. Find a sunny spot for your container or move it around as needed to catch those rays.

Watering and Mulching Potted Rhubarb

Regular watering and mulching are crucial for the success of your potted rhubarb. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Watering: Rhubarb plants like moist soil, but they don’t like sitting in water. To water them properly, wait until the top inch of soil feels dry, then give them a thorough watering.
  • Mulching: Mulch is a great tool for retaining moisture in the soil. It also helps prevent weed growth around your rhubarb plant. Consider using leaves as an eco-friendly mulch option during fall.

Fertilizing Potted Rhubarb

Just like other plants, rhubarb benefits from being fed regularly. Use a balanced granular fertilizer (10-10-10) once a year before new growth starts in the spring. We use this balanced organic fertilizer by Gardenwise for a lot of our container vegetables and have had great success!

Other Maintenance Tasks

In addition to the essential care tips mentioned above, there are a couple more things you should do to keep your container rhubarb happy:

  1. Removing Flowers: It may seem strange, but cutting off any flowers that appear on your rhubarb plant can actually help it produce more stalks.
  2. Cutting Back Old Stalks: Once the leaves have died back in the fall, trim any old stalks down to ground level.

Container gardening has its challenges, but it also offers flexibility and control over the growing environment. Armed with these tips on growing vegetables in Michigan, including rhubarb, you’re ready to embark on your container gardening journey!

5. Common Pests and Diseases

Rhubarb is generally a sturdy plant, but like any other plant, it can fall prey to certain pests and diseases. In a confined environment like a container, these issues can become more pronounced. But don’t worry! With the right preventative measures and care, your potted rhubarb can remain healthy and thriving.

One pest to watch out for is the rhubarb weevil, a yellowish beetle that nibbles notches into the stems and leaves. To deter these pests, maintain good airflow by removing dead or dying leafy growth. Fungal leaf rot is also common in container-grown rhubarb. To avoid this disease, water at the base of the plant and remove any infected parts promptly.

Garden grown rhubarb plant that can be transplanted into a pot.

6. Dividing Rhubarb Plants in Containers

Keeping your rhubarb plants thriving is vital for a successful crop. One effective way to maintain the vigor of your potted rhubarb is through regular division, which should be performed every 5-6 years.

But, why divide?

Dividing your plant ensures it stays healthy, productive and prevents it from becoming overcrowded within its container. This process also gives you an opportunity to multiply your crop by planting the divisions in new pots or sharing them with fellow gardeners.

Winter Care: Overwintering and Protection Strategies

When the air gets crisp and the leaves start to fall, those who love container gardening might wonder how to protect their potted rhubarb during winter. Don’t worry! With a few smart choices, you can successfully shield your container-grown rhubarb from the cold and ensure it stays healthy for the next season.

  • Place your container in an outdoor area that is protected from wind and subzero temperatures, but will receive rainwater or snow during its dormancy.
  • Wrap your containers with bubble wrap, burlap, or special insulation materials designed for plants. We use these plant insulator bags for overwintering perennials in containers – they’ve worked great and we can reuse them every year!
  • Regularly check for any signs of rodents or excessive moisture that could disrupt the plant’s dormancy period.

By using these methods, you can be confident that your rhubarb will sleep peacefully through winter and be ready to grow again when spring arrives.

FAQs About Growing Rhubarb in Containers

Got questions about nurturing rhubarb in your container garden? You’re not alone! Here’s a quick dive into some frequently asked questions by fellow enthusiasts on growing rhubarb in containers:

1. How big should my container be for growing rhubarb?

A container with a minimum of 20 inches in diameter and depth is recommended to accommodate the extensive root system of rhubarb plants.

2. Can I grow rhubarb from seeds in a pot?

Absolutely, although it’s more common to use crowns or divisions. If you choose seeds, remember they need a head start indoors before transplanting.

3. How much sun does potted rhubarb need?

Aim for at least six hours of sunlight each day. Rhubarb loves the sun and will thrive with generous light exposure.

4. When is the best time to water my container-grown rhubarb?

Water when the top inch of soil feels dry, preferably in the morning. This helps prevent fungal diseases by allowing any splashed leaves to dry during the day.

5. What should I do if my rhubarb isn’t producing many stalks?

Ensure it’s not overcrowded and consider dividing the plant if it’s been several years. Also, check that you’re not over-harvesting and give it a boost with fertilizer.

Potted rhubarb in containers

Potted rhubarb in containers

Embracing Rhubarb: A Container Gardening Adventure!

Growing rhubarb in containers is an exciting way to enjoy its fresh, tangy taste right at home! With some care and attention, this delicious plant can thrive even in small spaces.

Why Choose Container Gardening for Rhubarb?

Container gardening offers several advantages for growing rhubarb:

  1. Space-saving: If you have limited outdoor space or live in an apartment, containers allow you to cultivate rhubarb without a traditional garden bed.
  2. Flexibility: Containers can be moved around easily, ensuring your rhubarb gets the right amount of sunlight throughout the day.
  3. Weed control: By growing rhubarb in containers, you can prevent weeds from competing with your plant for nutrients and water.
  4. Pest management: Containers provide a barrier against common garden pests that may damage your rhubarb.

Getting Started with Rhubarb Containers

Follow these steps to start your own rhubarb container garden:

  1. Choosing the Right Container: Select a large pot or container with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Rhubarb has deep roots, so opt for a container that is at least 12 inches deep and wide.
  2. Selecting the Ideal Location: Find a spot that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily. If you’re growing rhubarb indoors, place it near a south-facing window or use grow lights.
  3. Preparing the Soil: Use well-draining soil enriched with organic matter, such as compost or aged manure. Avoid using heavy clay soils that retain excessive moisture.
  4. Planting Rhubarb: Place the rhubarb crown (the thick part where the leaves emerge) on top of the soil, ensuring it sits at ground level. Fill the container with soil, leaving about an inch of space from the rim.
  5. Watering and Feeding: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water deeply whenever the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Apply a balanced fertilizer every four to six weeks during the growing season.
  6. Mulching and Weed Control: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around the base of the rhubarb plant to suppress weeds and retain moisture.
  7. Supporting Rhubarb Growth: As your rhubarb plant grows, you may need to provide support in the form of stakes or cages to prevent it from flopping over.

Caring for Container-Grown Rhubarb

To ensure your container-grown rhubarb thrives:

  • Sunlight: Place your container in a sunny location where it receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
  • Watering: Check the soil moisture regularly and water deeply whenever the top inch feels dry. Avoid overwatering, as rhubarb roots are susceptible to rot.
  • Fertilizing: Feed your rhubarb plant with a balanced fertilizer every four to six weeks during the growing season. Follow the package instructions for application rates.
  • Pruning: Remove any flower stalks that emerge to redirect energy towards leaf and stem growth.
  • Dividing Rhubarb: Every three to four years, divide your rhubarb plant in early spring or late fall to maintain its vigor.

Harvesting Rhubarb from Containers

Once your rhubarb plant is well-established (typically after two years), you can start harvesting its stalks:

  1. Timing: Wait until the stalks are thick and at least 10-12 inches long before harvesting. This usually occurs in late spring or early summer.
  2. Harvesting Technique: Grasp the base of a stalk near the soil level and gently pull it sideways, away from the plant. Avoid twisting or yanking, as this can damage the crown.
  3. Harvesting Amount: During the first year of growth, only harvest a few stalks to allow the plant to establish itself. In subsequent years, you can harvest up to one-third of the stalks at a time.
  4. Leaf Removal: Trim off the large leaves from each harvested stalk, as they contain high levels of oxalic acid and are toxic if consumed in large quantities.
  5. Storing Rhubarb: Place harvested rhubarb stalks in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic or stored in a perforated plastic bag. They can stay fresh for up to two weeks.

The Versatility of Rhubarb in Culinary Delights

Rhubarb’s unique flavor profile makes it a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes. Here are some popular ways to enjoy homegrown rhubarb:

  1. Classic Rhubarb Pie: A timeless favorite, rhubarb pie combines tart rhubarb with a buttery crust for a delightful dessert.
  2. Rhubarb Jam: Spread this tangy jam on toast or use it as a filling for pastries and cakes.
  3. Rhubarb Sauce: Cooked down with sugar and spices, rhubarb sauce is perfect for drizzling over pancakes or ice cream.
  4. Rhubarb Crisp: Baked with a crisp oat topping, this dessert pairs well with vanilla ice cream.
  5. Rhubarb Chutney: Add a tangy twist to your meals by serving rhubarb chutney alongside grilled meats or cheese platters.
  6. Rhubarb Lemonade: Refreshing and vibrant, homemade rhubarb lemonade is a great way to beat the summer heat.
  7. Rhubarb Compote: Simmer rhubarb with sugar and citrus zest to create a versatile compote that can be enjoyed on its own or as a topping for yogurt and oatmeal.

In Conclusion

Growing rhubarb in containers opens up a world of possibilities for urban gardeners and those with limited outdoor space. By following the right techniques and providing proper care, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of this tangy perennial right at your doorstep.