Dividing rhubarb plants is an essential task for maintaining the health and productivity of your rhubarb patch. By understanding the process and knowing the right time to divide, you can successfully propagate and rejuvenate your rhubarb plants. In this article, we will explore how and when to divide rhubarb, ensuring the continued growth and abundance of this delightful perennial vegetable.
Understanding Rhubarb Divisions
1. Rhubarb Crowns
Rhubarb plants consist of large underground structures called crowns. These crowns serve as the foundation for plant growth, producing thick, fleshy stalks and large leaves.
2. Rhubarb Divisions
Divisions refer to the act of separating the rhubarb crowns into smaller sections, each containing buds or “eyes” that will grow into new plants.
Benefits of Dividing Rhubarb
1. Renewal of Plant Health
Dividing rhubarb helps rejuvenate the plant by preventing overcrowding and reducing competition for resources. It allows the plant to establish new, healthy growth and improves overall plant vigor.
2. Increase in Yield
Divided rhubarb plants tend to produce larger and more abundant stalks. By dividing, you can effectively increase your rhubarb harvest.
Ideal Time for Dividing Rhubarb
1. Spring Division
The ideal time for dividing rhubarb is in early spring, just as new growth begins to emerge. This gives the divisions ample time to establish themselves before the growing season.
2. Fall Division
Fall division is also an option in regions with mild climates. Dividing rhubarb in the fall allows the plant to establish roots during the cooler months, resulting in vigorous growth in the following spring.
Steps to Divide Rhubarb
1. Preparing the Rhubarb Plant
Before dividing, ensure the rhubarb plant is well-watered a day or two in advance. This will make it easier to separate the crowns.
2. Digging and Separating
Using a sharp garden spade, carefully dig around the outer perimeter of the rhubarb plant, keeping a distance of about 12 inches from the crown. Lift the entire clump out of the ground, taking care not to damage the roots.
Gently separate the crowns by pulling them apart or using a clean, sharp knife. Each division should have at least one to two healthy buds or “eyes.”
3. Replanting the Divisions
Choose a new planting location with well-draining soil and enriched with organic matter. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the division’s roots. Place the division in the hole, making sure the buds are facing upward and the crown is level with the soil surface. Backfill the hole, firming the soil gently around the roots.
Space the divisions at least 3 to 4 feet apart to allow for proper growth and airflow.
Caring for Divided Rhubarb
1. Watering and Mulching
After planting, water the divisions thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots. Provide regular watering throughout the growing season, aiming to keep the soil consistently moist. Mulch around the plants with organic materials like straw or compost to conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.
2. Fertilizing and Soil Amendments
Incorporate compost or well-rotted manure into the soil during planting to provide essential nutrients. Additionally, fertilize the divided rhubarb plants in early spring and again after harvest using a balanced organic fertilizer. Follow the product instructions for application rates.
Dividing rhubarb plants is a simple and rewarding process that promotes plant health and increases yield. By understanding the right time to divide and following the proper steps, you can successfully propagate and care for your rhubarb plants for years to come.
- Can I divide rhubarb in the summer? It is not ideal to divide rhubarb in the summer as the heat can stress the divisions. Stick to dividing in spring or fall for best results.
- How long does it take for divided rhubarb to produce a harvest? Divided rhubarb plants typically take about one to two years to establish themselves fully and produce a substantial harvest.
- Can I divide rhubarb that is in a container? Yes, rhubarb in containers can be divided following the same process as in-ground plants. Ensure the container is large enough to accommodate the divided sections.
- Is it necessary to divide rhubarb every few years? Yes, dividing rhubarb every four to five years is recommended to maintain plant health and productivity.
- Are all parts of the rhubarb plant edible? No, only the stalks of rhubarb are edible. The leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid and should not be consumed.