Yard & Garden Report


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A gardener's friend

Rhubarb is one of the most reliable and delicious crops you can grow.

Rhubarb stalksYou can always count on your rhubarb plant.

It is always there for you, sitting in the corner of the garden. The “pie plant” doesn’t get any special care. Maybe it doesn’t get ANY care. And yet every spring it produces rosy red stalks that make a great pie.

Rhubarb is technically not a fruit, but we use it like a fruit. It adds tart flavor to pies, sauces, jams and breads. It can be used in making wines and juices, too.

Rhubarb may be the easiest to grow, longest lived fruit in North Dakota. It thrives under our cold temperatures and rich prairie soils. It’s foolproof!

Give it a try yourself. Plant rhubarb in a sunny spot that has rich soil. It is a heavy feeder and responds well to compost or rotted manure. As long as the soil is well drained, the plant may live for decades.

Rhubarb comes in shades of green and red. Most gardeners prefer red varieties since they look more attractive. Red varieties are not sweeter than green types.Strawberry rhubarb pie 

‘Canada Red’ is an excellent variety; it is productive and sweeter than most. ‘Valentine’ is popular because its stalks hold their deep red color when cooked.

You can start harvesting rhubarb in its second year. It will be one of the first crops you harvest every spring. Trim the leaves from the stalks immediately after cutting. The leaf tissue is toxic.

Harvest rhubarb until the Fourth of July. After that, let the new stalks alone. We need those stalks to produce energy that will replenish the crown for next year’s harvest. If you get a special craving for strawberry rhubarb pie (bottom photo), you can cut a few stalks in summer. These stalks will be less tender, but are still edible.

If you are looking for a foolproof crop to grow, prepare a spot for rhubarb in your garden this fall. It will be a reliable friend in your garden for many years. 


Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Published in NDSU Yard & Garden Report, August 25, 2014. Photos were made available under Creative Commons licenses specified by the photographers: Anna J and Melissa Wang.


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