a period of five years I have bought five different rhubarb plants
from various respectable garden centres - one each year from a different
centre and each of them with beautiful healthy red stems. Can you
please tell me why the red stems disappear and are replaced by green
ones soon after planting? I put compost in the bottom of each hole
along with sheep pellets at the time of planting and each plant
gets given periodically a drink of liquid chicken manure.
is naturally a cool-climate plant that grows and crops better in
areas that get cold winters - it can tolerate temperatures as low
as -15°C. It also needs plenty of water and nutrients during spring
and early summer when going through its maximum growth phase. Rhubarb
stems generally tend to be redder early in the season and in lower
light conditions, so for your area I recommend you plant it in a
cool, shady spot and make sure the soil stays moist. You're doing
the right thing with sheep pellets and liquid manure, but you may
not be applying enough nitrogen, so also use lots of general compost,
both added to the soil and as mulch around the crown of the plant.
Feed during the growing season with high nitrogen fertiliser such
as Thrive or Nitrosol to encourage lush growth.
The other point to bear
in mind is young rhubarb plants can take two to three years to reach
their potential, so don't pick off too many leaves until the clump
is well established and even then, from around mid-summer, allow
plenty of leaves to stay on the plant to keep the crown strong and
healthy for next season. Also, cut out any flowers when they appear
as they'll suppress leaf production.
Gardener, Issue 164, 2005, Page 24
Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH.