Growing Rhubarb From Seed – Step by Step

Rhubarb seeds was one of those things I ordered from the seed catalog out of sheer nostalgia, knowing nothing of how to grow them, nor if they would even do well in my area.

rhubarb plants surrounded by red mulch in garden
rhubarb plants surrounded by red mulch in garden

Turns out, nobody plants rhubarb from seed. It’s actually one of those few plants that you’re supposed to buy as a crown or root (like asparagus and strawberries).

Don’t get me wrong, you can plant them from seed. It’s just not recommended as the plants you get might not be true to their parent plants.

2 years old rhubarb plant with leaves eaten by a pest
2 years old rhubarb plant with leaves eaten by a pest

It also just so happens that rhubarb supposedly does not grow in my region. Figures.

Oh well. I’ve already got the seeds so I might as well give it a shot! It would be cool if I was the only one around growing this stuff.

On Jan. 22, I started some rhubarb seeds indoors. I just did them like I do most seeds I start: filled a yogurt cup with seed starting mix, buried one seed in each cup about 1/2″ deep, and kept it moist until it germinated and the little seedling emerged (which was 11 days later).

Then I put the cups under a fluorescent shop light on my kitchen counter for about three weeks before moving them outdoors to harden off.

I think I killed a few of them in the process though. It stinks when you forget to open the windows to the cold frame and your tender little seedlings get all shriveled up and limp! Oops.

Today, I transplanted my healthiest rhubarb seedlings. Now is the perfect time to put them in the ground, as they really do need cool temps to get established before Spring.

I planted them in several inches of rich compost, in a spot that gets good morning sun, but shade later toward the evening. I’m hoping it’ll help them not get too hot in the summertime.

young rhubarb seedling

Rhubarb seedlings (or crowns) should be planted at least 24″ apart, in rows 36″ apart. And they should be planted somewhere where you plan on keeping them for several years, since they are perennial crops.

If these little guys actually take off, it’ll be next year before I can harvest anything off of them. I don’t mind the wait, though. It’ll be fun to see what they do!

Have you ever tried growing rhubarb from seed?

9 thoughts on “Growing Rhubarb From Seed – Step by Step”

  1. Just don’t make the mistake I made—so excited when we moved onto our hobby farm–my sister sent me a package of seeds…red rhubarb is what I thought I got–not it came up beautifully and we had about 10 different plants ==turns out they were RED RHUBARB CHARD!!! Don’t try to make sauce–my daughter said, the stalks were smelling like celery–then she started cooking it, and it smelled like and taste ike beets!!! So sad…lesson learned!

  2. I have grown rhubarb from seed. I planted a 72 cell tray. I transplanted all of them into a narrow raised bed at about one month and let them grow out for the growing season. The following (early) spring I transplanted the better producers into permanent beds. About 30 plants have made excellent plants. They are not all perfectly red, but they all taste great. If you want a couple of perfectly red plants, buy roots. If you want to produce a ton of rhubarb on the cheap, seeds are the way to go. Just over-plant and cull to your requirements.

  3. Kendra,
    Where did you find the seeds to order from? I have tried to find seeds but was told they do not sell the seeds. 🙂

  4. Here in the Pacific Northwest Rhubarb grows like a weed. In fact most people just let it go and never harvest. My family loves Rhubarb. Three years ago I planted crowns and the directions indicated that you shouldn’t harvest the first year. Only a third of the plant the second year and carefully the third. So you may be waiting 3 years for a harvest. I unknowingly over harvested a plant on some deserted property one year and the next year it produced almost nothing. It is also a plant that needs a cool damp place so even here were we get so much rain planting them in the garden is not the best. I am going to move one of my plants this year to a spot near a tree where it only gets about 3-4 hours of sun.I think that plant will be happier there.


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