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.
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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
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.