How To Grow Rhubarb In Colorado

Are you a gardening enthusiast in Colorado looking to add a unique and delicious perennial vegetable to your backyard? Look no further than rhubarb! This hardy plant thrives in Colorado’s cooler climate and can provide you with a bountiful harvest of tender and tangy stalks. In this article, we will share expert tips and gardening advice to help you successfully grow rhubarb in Colorado.

Key Takeaways:

  • Growing rhubarb in Colorado’s climate is possible with the right care and preparation.
  • Start with rhubarb crowns or dormant roots and plant them in well-draining soil.
  • Harvest rhubarb 2-3 times a year between May and early July, with a potential fall harvest.
  • Choose recommended varieties like Victoria, Canada Red, and Colorado Red for optimal growth.
  • Select firm, glossy stalks when choosing rhubarb, and store them properly for long-lasting freshness.

The Popularity and Seasonality of Rhubarb

Rhubarb has a long history of culinary use and has experienced fluctuations in popularity over the years. Before World War II, rhubarb was widely enjoyed for its tangy flavor and versatility in both sweet and savory dishes. However, during and after the war, its popularity declined, with other fruits and vegetables taking the spotlight.

Fortunately, rhubarb is now making a comeback, capturing the attention of chefs and home cooks alike. Its unique flavor and vibrant color add a special touch to various recipes, from pies and tarts to sauces and compotes. Additionally, rhubarb’s tartness pairs well with other fruits, making it a popular ingredient in jams, jellies, and even cocktails.

In Colorado, rhubarb is eagerly anticipated each year as one of the first garden offerings in early May. The state celebrates this versatile vegetable with annual rhubarb festivals, such as the Pine Grove Rhubarb Festival and Silverton’s International Rhubarb Festival. These events showcase the creativity of local chefs and highlight the diverse culinary uses of rhubarb.

The Seasonal Availability of Rhubarb

Rhubarb has a relatively short growing season, typically harvested between May and early July. This limited availability adds to its allure and makes it a highly anticipated treat for rhubarb enthusiasts across Colorado. However, with proper cultivation techniques, it is possible to extend the harvest season and enjoy rhubarb into the fall.

Rhubarb’s early season timing also coincides with the arrival of spring, making it a delightful way to celebrate the transition from cold winter months to warmer weather. As the weather warms up and the days get longer, rhubarb plants flourish, producing vibrant red stalks that are ready to be harvested and used in a variety of delicious recipes.

Festival Name Location Date
Pine Grove Rhubarb Festival Pine Grove, Colorado May
Silverton’s International Rhubarb Festival Silverton, Colorado June

Growing and Harvesting Rhubarb in Colorado

If you’re looking to grow rhubarb in Colorado, you’re in luck. Rhubarb is a hardy and reliable perennial that thrives in Colorado’s temperate climate. With minimal care, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of delicious rhubarb stalks in your own backyard.

To start growing rhubarb, it’s best to begin with rhubarb crowns or dormant roots. Plant them in well-draining soil enriched with organic matter. Rhubarb prefers a sunny location but can tolerate partial shade. Make sure to provide adequate spacing between plants, as they can grow quite large.

Rhubarb can be harvested 2-3 times a year, typically between May and early July. Look for stalks that are firm and have reached a length of 10-15 inches. To harvest, gently pull the stalks downward, giving them a slight twist to break them off at the base.

It’s important to note that you should only harvest stalks and avoid cutting or damaging the crown of the plant. This allows the rhubarb to continue thriving and producing stalks for years to come.

Planting Tips Harvesting Tips Care Tips
Start with rhubarb crowns or dormant roots Harvest stalks 2-3 times between May and early July Provide regular water and mulch to retain moisture
Plant in well-draining soil enriched with organic matter Look for firm stalks with a length of 10-15 inches Remove any flower stalks to encourage leaf growth
Choose a sunny location or partial shade Pull stalks downward with a slight twist to break them off Divide and replant every 4-5 years to maintain vigor

Rhubarb Care Tips

  • Provide regular water to keep the soil evenly moist, especially during dry spells.
  • Mulch around the plants to help retain moisture and suppress weed growth.
  • Remove any flower stalks that appear, as they divert energy from leaf growth.
  • Fertilize rhubarb in early spring with a balanced fertilizer to promote healthy growth.
  • Divide rhubarb plants every 4-5 years to prevent overcrowding and maintain plant vigor.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to successfully grow and harvest rhubarb in Colorado. Whether you use it in pies, jams, or other delicious recipes, homegrown rhubarb will add a unique and flavorful element to your meals.

Growing Rhubarb in Colorado

Recommended Rhubarb Varieties for Colorado

When it comes to growing rhubarb in Colorado, choosing the right variety is crucial for success. There are several factors to consider, such as stalk color, sweetness, and productivity. Here are some of the best varieties recommended for Colorado:

Variety Stalk Color Sweetness Productivity
Victoria Bright red to pink Moderately sweet High yield
Canada Red Bright red Moderately sweet High yield
Turkish Green with red tinges Mildly sweet Good yield
Colorado Red Red Moderately sweet High yield
Strawberry Green with red streaks Mildly sweet Good yield
MacDonald Green with red streaks Moderately sweet High yield

These varieties have been selected based on their adaptability to Colorado’s climate and their overall performance in terms of taste and yield. However, personal preference and desired use in recipes should also be taken into consideration when choosing a rhubarb variety.

Whether you’re looking for vibrant red stalks or a milder sweetness, there’s a rhubarb variety that’s perfect for your Colorado garden. Experiment with different varieties and enjoy the unique flavors and versatility that rhubarb brings to your culinary creations.

Selection and Storage of Rhubarb

When it comes to selecting rhubarb, freshness is key. Look for stalks that are firm, crisp, and glossy. Avoid stalks with blemishes, split ends, or hollowed-out insides. These signs could indicate poor quality or potential spoilage. Remember, the fresher the rhubarb, the better it will taste in your dishes.

Once you have selected your rhubarb, it’s important to store it properly to maintain its freshness. Start by removing the leaves, as they are toxic and should not be consumed. Next, give the stalks a good wash to remove any dirt or debris. After washing, wrap the stalks in a damp towel or place them in a plastic bag. This will help retain moisture and prevent them from drying out. Finally, store the wrapped rhubarb in the refrigerator.

Rhubarb can stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 1-3 weeks. However, it’s best to use it as soon as possible to enjoy the optimal flavor and texture. If you won’t be able to use your rhubarb within that timeframe, you can also freeze it for future use. Simply cut the rhubarb into pieces, place them in airtight containers, and store them in the freezer. Frozen rhubarb can last up to one year, allowing you to enjoy its tangy goodness long after the growing season has ended.

selecting rhubarb

In summary, selecting and storing rhubarb properly is essential for maintaining its freshness and quality. Choose stalks that are firm and free from blemishes, and store them in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp towel or plastic bag. Remember to remove the toxic leaves before storing and use your rhubarb within 1-3 weeks for the best taste. If you have an abundance of rhubarb or want to save it for later, freezing is a great option that allows you to enjoy rhubarb throughout the year. With these tips, you’ll be able to savor the deliciousness of rhubarb in your favorite recipes.

Preserving Rhubarb

Preserving rhubarb is a great way to enjoy its tangy flavor throughout the year. Whether you have an abundance of rhubarb from your garden or want to take advantage of its seasonal availability, freezing and canning are two popular preservation methods. Here are instructions on how to freeze and can rhubarb:

Freezing Rhubarb

  1. Wash and trim the rhubarb stalks, removing any leaves or blemishes.
  2. Cut the stalks into small pieces, about 1-inch in length.
  3. Blanch the rhubarb by briefly immersing it in boiling water for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Immediately transfer the blanched rhubarb into ice-cold water to stop the cooking process.
  5. Drain the rhubarb well and spread it in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Place the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze the rhubarb until firm, usually for about 2-3 hours.
  7. Transfer the frozen rhubarb pieces into airtight freezer-safe containers or bags, removing any excess air.
  8. Label the containers with the date and store them in the freezer.

Canning Rhubarb

Canning rhubarb requires a pressure canner or a boiling water bath canner. Follow these steps:

  1. Wash and trim the rhubarb stalks, removing any leaves or blemishes.
  2. Cut the stalks into desired lengths, leaving enough headspace in the canning jars.
  3. Prepare a boiling water bath or pressure canner according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Fill sterilized canning jars with the rhubarb pieces, leaving adequate headspace.
  5. Add sugar syrup or water to the jars, leaving the recommended headspace.
  6. Wipe the jar rims to remove any spills or residue, and apply sterilized lids and bands.
  7. Place the jars in the canner and process them according to the required time and pressure.
  8. After processing, carefully remove the jars from the canner and allow them to cool on a towel.
  9. Check the seals, label the jars with the date, and store them in a cool, dark place.

By freezing or canning rhubarb, you can enjoy its tartness and vibrant color in various recipes all year round. Choose the preservation method that suits your preferences and storage capabilities to savor the goodness of rhubarb beyond its short growing season.

freezing and canning rhubarb

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Rhubarb

Rhubarb is not only a delicious addition to your recipes, but it is also packed with essential nutrients and health benefits. This low-calorie vegetable offers a variety of vitamins and phytonutrients that contribute to your overall well-being.

One of the standout nutrients in rhubarb is vitamin K, which plays a vital role in blood clotting and bone health. Rhubarb also contains manganese, an essential mineral that supports healthy metabolism and the formation of connective tissues. Additionally, it’s a great source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that boosts your immune system and promotes collagen production to keep your skin looking youthful.

Phytonutrients, such as the anthocyanins found in rhubarb’s vibrant red stalks, have been linked to numerous health benefits. These compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help protect against chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular conditions. Rhubarb also contains polyphenols, another group of plant compounds that have been associated with improved heart health and reduced inflammation.

The nutritional value of rhubarb per 100 grams:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 21
Carbohydrates 4.5 grams
Fiber 1.8 grams
Protein 0.9 grams
Fat 0.2 grams
Vitamin K 29% of the Daily Value (DV)
Vitamin C 8% of the DV
Manganese 12% of the DV
Potassium 8% of the DV

“Including rhubarb in your diet not only adds a burst of flavor to your meals, but it also provides an array of nutrients that promote good health. So go ahead, indulge in this versatile vegetable and reap the benefits it has to offer!”

Rhubarbade Recipe

Looking for a refreshing and delicious summer drink? Try making rhubarbade, a tangy and sweet rhubarb lemonade that is sure to quench your thirst. This simple recipe combines the tartness of rhubarb with the sweetness of sugar, creating a perfectly balanced beverage.

To make rhubarbade, you will need:

  • 4 cups of rhubarb stalks, chopped
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 6 cups of water
  • Ice cubes


  1. In a blender or food processor, puree the rhubarb stalks until smooth.
  2. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the rhubarb puree into the strainer. Use the back of a spoon to press down and extract as much juice as possible.
  3. In a saucepan, combine the rhubarb juice and sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the mixture cool.
  5. In a pitcher, combine the rhubarb mixture with 6 cups of water. Stir well.
  6. Refrigerate until chilled.
  7. When ready to serve, fill glasses with ice cubes and pour the rhubarbade over the ice.
  8. Garnish with fresh mint leaves, strawberries, and lime slices for extra flavor.

Enjoy your homemade rhubarbade on a hot summer day, and savor the unique taste of rhubarb in a refreshing beverage.

History and Food Safety of Rhubarb

Rhubarb has a rich history dating back to ancient times. The word “rhubarb” is derived from its Latin genus name, rhabarbarum. Native to Asia, rhubarb was first cultivated for its medicinal properties and later used in culinary preparations. It made its way to Europe in the 14th century and eventually reached North America. Today, rhubarb is enjoyed for its unique tart flavor and versatility in various recipes.

While rhubarb stalks are edible and delicious, it’s important to note that the leaves are toxic and should be avoided. The leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid, a naturally occurring compound. Ingesting large amounts of oxalic acid can lead to stomach irritation, kidney problems, and calcium dysregulation. Therefore, it is crucial to only consume the stalks and never the leaves.

Toxicity Level Symptoms
Moderate Stomach irritation
High Kidney problems, calcium dysregulation

To ensure the safety of consuming rhubarb, it is recommended to handle the stalks with care. Wash them thoroughly before use, trimming off any leaf remnants. By following these precautions, you can enjoy the deliciousness of rhubarb while avoiding any potential health risks.

Pests and Diseases of Rhubarb in Colorado

Rhubarb is a resilient plant, but it is not immune to pests and diseases. It’s important to be aware of the potential problems that can affect your rhubarb crop and take preventive measures to keep your plants healthy. Here, we’ll discuss common pests and diseases that can impact rhubarb in Colorado, as well as effective control methods and the importance of maintaining good garden hygiene.


Rhubarb can be targeted by several pests, including the rhubarb curculio, slugs, and snails. The rhubarb curculio is a weevil that damages the stalks by laying eggs on them, causing brown, corky spots. Slugs and snails feed on the leaves, leaving behind irregular holes and slime trails. To prevent and control these pests, keep your garden clean and tidy. Remove any decaying plant matter or debris where pests can hide. You can also use organic pest control methods, such as handpicking the pests or setting up beer traps for slugs and snails.


Common rhubarb diseases in Colorado include botrytis (gray mold), fungal leaf spot, and phytophthora crown and root rot. Botrytis can cause the leaves to turn grayish-brown and develop a fuzzy mold. Fungal leaf spot appears as reddish-brown spots on the leaves, often surrounded by a yellow halo. Phytophthora crown and root rot attacks the plant’s roots, causing them to rot and the plant to wilt. To prevent these diseases, ensure good air circulation and avoid overwatering. Remove and destroy any infected plant parts. For severe cases, you may need to apply appropriate fungicides as directed.

Garden Hygiene

Garden hygiene plays a crucial role in preventing and controlling pests and diseases. It’s important to keep the garden clean and free from debris, as it can harbor pests and pathogens. Regularly remove and destroy any infected plant material. Avoid overcrowding the plants, as it can impede air circulation and increase the chances of disease. Additionally, practice crop rotation by not planting rhubarb in the same spot year after year. This helps to break the disease cycle and reduce the risk of soil-borne diseases.

Pest / Disease Symptoms Prevention Control Methods
Rhubarb Curculio Brown, corky spots on stalks Keep garden clean, remove debris Handpick, beer traps
Slugs and Snails Holes in leaves, slime trails Keep garden clean, remove debris Handpick, beer traps
Botrytis (Gray Mold) Grayish-brown mold on leaves Good air circulation, avoid overwatering Remove infected parts, fungicides
Fungal Leaf Spot Reddish-brown spots on leaves Good air circulation, avoid overwatering Remove infected parts, fungicides
Phytophthora Crown and Root Rot Wilting, rotting roots Good air circulation, avoid overwatering Remove infected parts, fungicides

By being proactive in preventing pests and diseases, maintaining good garden hygiene, and promptly addressing any issues that arise, you can help ensure a successful rhubarb harvest in Colorado. Remember to regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests or diseases and take appropriate action to protect your crop.


Growing rhubarb in Colorado can be a fulfilling and delicious endeavor. With the right knowledge and care, you can cultivate this versatile perennial vegetable in your own backyard. It may require some extra attention, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Rhubarb cultivation is a long-term investment in your garden. Once established, rhubarb plants can continue to produce tasty stalks for up to 10 years or more. This makes it a great addition to any Colorado garden, providing a consistent source of fresh, homegrown ingredients for your favorite recipes.

Speaking of recipes, there are countless ways to enjoy the bounty of your rhubarb harvest. From pies and muffins to jams and sauces, the culinary possibilities are endless. Experiment with different flavor combinations and discover your own favorite rhubarb creations.

So, if you’re ready to embark on a journey of Colorado gardening and add a unique and tasty element to your meals, why not give rhubarb a try? With its long-term productivity and scrumptious recipes, rhubarb is sure to become a cherished addition to your garden and your dining table.


How do I plant rhubarb in Colorado?

To plant rhubarb in Colorado, start with rhubarb crowns or dormant roots and plant them in well-draining soil with organic matter. Be sure to choose a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day.

When can I harvest rhubarb in Colorado?

Rhubarb can be harvested 2-3 times a year between May and early July in Colorado, with a potential fall harvest. Stalk length and firmness are indicators of ripeness, and stalks should be picked by pulling downward and twisting gently.

What are the recommended rhubarb varieties for growing in Colorado?

Recommended rhubarb varieties for growing in Colorado include Victoria, Canada Red, Turkish, Colorado Red, Strawberry, and MacDonald. The choice of variety depends on personal preference and desired use in recipes.

How should I select and store fresh rhubarb?

When selecting rhubarb, choose stalks that are firm, crisp, and glossy. Avoid stalks with blemishes, split ends, or hollowed-out insides. To store fresh rhubarb, remove the leaves, wash the stalks, and wrap them in a damp towel or plastic bag. Stored in the refrigerator, rhubarb can stay fresh for 1-3 weeks.

What are the preservation methods for rhubarb?

Rhubarb can be preserved through freezing or canning methods. To freeze rhubarb, cut it into pieces and store in airtight containers with appropriate headspace. Frozen rhubarb can last up to one year. Canning rhubarb involves processing it in a boiling water bath, following safe elevation-specific recipes and methods.

What are the health benefits of rhubarb?

Rhubarb is a nutrient-rich vegetable that is low in calories. It is a good source of vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, and potassium. The red color of rhubarb stalks comes from anthocyanin, a type of flavonoid with antioxidant properties. Rhubarb also contains phytochemicals that have been reported to help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.

How can I make rhubarbade?

To make rhubarbade, puree rhubarb stalks and strain the juice. Mix the juice with sugar and water to achieve the desired sweetness, and serve with ice. Rhubarbade can be garnished with strawberries, mint, and lime slices for added flavor.

Are rhubarb leaves toxic?

Yes, the leaves of the rhubarb plant are toxic due to high oxalic acid content and should not be eaten. Large doses of oxalic acid can cause stomach irritation, kidney problems, and calcium dysregulation. Individuals prone to kidney stones should avoid consuming rhubarb.

How can I prevent pests and diseases in my rhubarb plants?

Rhubarb can be affected by pests and diseases such as botrytis (gray mold), fungal leaf spot, phytophthora crown and root rot, rhubarb curculio, and slugs/snails. Good garden hygiene, natural predators, and proper disease management techniques can help prevent and control these issues.

Is growing rhubarb a long-term investment?

Yes, growing rhubarb is a long-term investment in your garden. Rhubarb plants can produce tasty stalks for up to 10 years or more with proper care. It is a sustainable and rewarding addition to your garden.

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