Growing Rhubarb in Southern Grayson County
By Krystl Philyaw
Grayson County Master Gardener
I am glad you have joined me on the adventure to grow Rhubarb in southern Grayson County. I thought for sure I had failed and lost all of my plants, but in March, they all reemerged. I guess they did not mind that snow and sub-freezing weather in February. They are a beautiful plant but do not eat the leaves as they are poisonous. Discard them.
Some insect was snacking on the leaves. Insect damage on the leaves is not a big deal. Too much damage can weaken the plant. I lost one plant, but it may have acted as a trap plant and helped keep the insect off the others.
Harvest time for Rhubarb in this area is in early May. The stalks will become woody in hot, dry weather. This growing season our weather has been up and down the temperature scale. We had several days in April in the low 80’s, then boom, one night of 31 degrees. The Rhubarb enjoyed the cold and took off afterward.
Harvesting Rhubarb is quite simple. They range in color from green with a slight red blush to a full red. When the stalks are 8-15 inches long and about one inch in diameter, no matter the color, they are ready. You can use a knife to cut the stalks, but pulling by hand is recommended. Grab the stem at the base and twist it with a downward motion. It should break off cleanly at the bottom. Growing these as perennials, you would only remove about 1/3 of the stalks. We grow Rhubarb as an annual here. If the stalks are ready, take as many as you want. Remove the large leaf and dispose of it. I read you can compost the leaves. I did not.
There are several ways to store your harvest. For short-term storage, you can stand them in a container with water (like a flower bouquet). Place them in the refrigerator with a plastic bag over the top. Another way is to wrap the stalks in a damp towel and store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. For the longer-term storage, cut the stalks into one-inch pieces and freeze in freezer-safe containers. My first harvest went to two friends. Jam or jelly will be made from the second harvest.
Growing Rhubarb is not that difficult. What did I learn? Rhubarb likes to be well watered, especially during dry spells. Give the plants a balanced fertilizer in the early spring. Give your plants lots of room. Watch out for insects. Experiment with new recipes. I will take what I learned and grow Rhubarb again. You should give it a try too. Do not let anyone tell you, “You can’t grow Rhubarb in Texas”, because it is possible.
Grayson County Master Gardeners Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization sponsored by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 903-813-4204, our web page txmg.org/grayson, or our Facebook group.
3-15-21 reemerging after February deep freeze