Splitting Rhubarb – Q&A

I’m often asked the same questions by different people so I think it useful to publish some of the emails I get and the answers for everyone. In the same week I’ve had two emails on the topic of splitting old rhubarb crowns.

Annie asks:

I receive you newsletter every month and it is truly fantastic. [Thank You!! Flattery gets you everywhere]

I have a quick question about Splitting Old Rhubarb Crowns

I am in my second year of my allotment in Sussex and have adopted the rhubarb plant. I only have half a plot but I have 2 very large rhubarb crowns, heads, plants (not sure what the technical term is). We have had some fantastic rhubarb from the plant. This year however it started to seed and produced a few flowers which I quickly removed!

Please could you tell me what is the best way to split a rhubarb plant and how I should replant it and when I should be doing it.

Many thanks for your help,


This is the perfect time for splitting rhubarb, the plant is dormant and the frosts are about to start but the soil is still easily dug. Start off by digging up the plants completely.

Splitting the Rhubarb Crowns

Turn upside down so that the roots spread out and cut down into the crown with a spade, slicing into sections that have both root and crown. It depends how big your plant is how you many you get, your new roots need to be roughly 6″ across at the crown.

Frosting the Rhubarb

Now this is the clever bit, he says smugly. In the famous rhubarb triangle where they produce forced rhubarb, they dig up the plants around now and leave them lying on the surface of the field to get frosted before taking them into the forcing sheds in early spring.

Rhubarb is one of those plants that requires a certain amount of cold weather to thrive the next year. So I took a leaf out of the professional rhubarb growers’ manual and just left the cut crowns lying on the surface over winter.

Planting out Rhubarb

In the early spring I prepared a new bed. It’s far better not to plant them back where they were before if you can avoid it. Dig over quite deeply and add a load of rotted manure. If you haven’t got any rotted manure, add compost or failing that add 8oz per square yard of blood fish and bone fertiliser. Even if you have manure, still add a couple of ounces of fertiliser to ensure the plants have all they need. Mix in well with a fork.

Plant the crowns a couple of feet apart each way into the prepared bed, firming well. When the leaves start later in the spring, give each plant a good handful or two of pelleted chicken manure scattered on the surface. This provides plenty of nitrogen to power leaf growth.

Nothing is certain in growing but that method gave me some of the best rhubarb on the whole site.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
2 comments on “Splitting Rhubarb – Q&A
  1. Linda Peppin says:

    Great article, really useful. This is the first winter for my rhubarb should I lift them or leave until next year?

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