My Rhubarb Flowered

Today I noticed a flower stalk and bud emerging from the centre of my rhubarb, I say noticed as if I were surprised to see it there, but to be honest I wasn’t. I found out that rhubarb could flower by studying gardening books, I looked into the possibility because I noticed something unusual about my rhubarb way back in January, just as it emerged through the soil. Along with the usual buds pushing through was a much larger pale green bud, something  I had never seen before.

Anyway, I had been keeping a close eye on the suspicious bud but it slipped my mind just recently and I sort of lost track of it amongst the huge leaves – until today. I knew from reading about rhubarb flowers that I should remove any flower stalks as soon as they’re noticed, flowers that are allowed to set seed could potentially weaken the plant and it may never fully recover. I’ve also read that lack of water at a certain point of development could be the reason why rhubarb decides to flower, but I do not believe this to be the case with mine. Any ideas?

I guess it decided it was going to flower this year, come what may, so off with its flower head and onto the compost heap it went. Shame, it looked so pretty too.

52 comments

  1. Hi Karen
    Had the same thing happen with my Rhubarb too, so rang Ben Asquith at Brandy Carr Nurseries in Yorkshire (he’s a Rhubarb specialist) and he told me that the Rhubarb has flowered in response to the cold winter we’ve just had. Fearing it may not survive another season, the Rhubarb has set seeds in order to reproduce itself. Clever Rhubarb. As you said, best cut the flowers off now, and this shouldn’t affect the flavour either. V.best Naomi

  2. Remove any flower stems soonest and put them on the compost heap! As Naomi says it’s a cold winter that triggers them to flower which is why many people have never seen them until last year or now.
    Last year a large plant on a disused plot flowered which was impressive, and something I’ve never seen before.

  3. Very interesting post, Karen. I’ve never grown rhubarb so I have no information to offer but have been fascinated to read other people’s comments. I was once told though that every plant is genetically pre-determined to flower and set seed in order to complete its life cycle – which kind of makes sense when you think about it! Caro xx

  4. Interesting. Ours flowers regularly, but it is very old. The year before last we gave it it’s head and, despite all advice to the contrary, we let it bloom. It was quite pretty, and very tall. Our recklessness doesn’t appear to have affected it at all, but we did cut the flowers off last year. I have spied one coming so far this year and haven’t decided which way to point my thumb yet :)

  5. I agree Mo, the flowers are pretty, all flushed with pink like a mini cauliflower – I felt quite sad chopping it! If you do allow yours to flower this year I would love to see a photo!

  6. I have the same problem with one of my Rhubarb plants, this is the second time it has flowered! I just left the flowers but after reading your post I now think I should have cut them off straight away. So tomorrow I am going to remove any flowers and then give it a good drink of Seasol, here in Australia we don’t get very cold winters at all, so I m not sure if I can apply that theory to my Rhubarb, maybe it didn’t like the really hot Summer we have had!

  7. Interesting isn’t it, all the reasons why it could flower. I didn’t want to risk ruining my plant or the flavour, seeing as it’s now at the stage where I can harvest it pretty much as and when I like – up until summer.

  8. Look out for a strange looking bud like the one on the left in the photo, little cauli type flowers burst from within!

  9. Thank you for putting up this post. My Rhubarb has also flowered, but I did n’t know that is what it was. I suspected it could be a flower, but never heard of Rhubarb flowering… ! I do now. Will cut it off soonest.

  10. Was reading an article about breadmaking yesterday and discovered that buckwheat flour is not made from a grain , but a type of rhubarb! Think it must be the seeds which do look quite grain like.
    My boys always used to be really embarrassed about the physical shape of the rhubarb flower as it emerges-lots of whispers and pointing! I think it looks quite alien!

  11. And another one here with a flowering rhubarb! It’s a new plant. Well, I say new – I bought it last year, forgot to plant it, thought it had died, left it on the patio in grumpiness as a reminder not to be so tardy, and it started growing again. So I planted it and it’s really shooting up. I’ve mistreated the poor thing so much that it’s no wonder it’s flowering in fear! Thanks for the info – I’m now off to cut its pretty head off

  12. Finally visited my rhubarb plant yesterday (community garden) and found that mine flowered, also, and it never has before. I’ve had it 3 years but it was transplanted from across town and has been around a lot longer. I’m in Boston and we certainly had a deep, dark winter. I pulled some stalks yesterday and made a rhubarb crisp and it tasted just fine. I will head out today and cut off the flowers. A wonderful season to all!

  13. Wow, I’m so glad I Googled “alien rhubarb” as it has brought me to this site and all your rhubarb knowledge! Like others I never knew rhubarb flowered and in the 17 years I have had mine it hasn’t bothered until now. I was afraid something was wrong with it. I am off to behead it now:)

  14. I have some rhubarb plants that grew in my backyard, I had no idea what to do with them. I left them alone and they flowered and now are really tall like 4 feet with what I’m sure are the seeds present. Should I cut the heads off now that I know they were supposed to be reomoved? and where do I cut them now that they have grown so tall. The stalks are small and not worth picking can they be recovered now that they were left to seed? Hopefully they are still good rhubarb is my favourite, any help would be great! Thank you!

  15. Hi Sarah,

    Yes, remove the flower heads by cutting low down the plant and as cleanly as you can. If they’ve already gone to seed then remove them anyway. How old are your rhubarb plants? If they are young (under 2 years) then I would leave the stalks until next year. It’s best to stop harvesting rhubarb plants by June, to give the plants a chance to recover and produce stronger stalks the following spring.

    Hope this helps :)

  16. Hi Karen,
    I’m in Mildura Australia and mine have flowered as well, I’m off to behead them now, do you reside in Australia? When should stop harvesting my Rhubarb?

    Rod

  17. Hi Rod, I’m in England, UK!

    I grow a super early variety and it can be ready as early as March so I usually stop harvesting my rhubarb around late June, just to allow it to rest. What do you think of the flowers? I think they’re pretty but strange!

  18. Mine flowered last year, so I cut the stem, bought it into the house and popped it into a vase! Much too beautiful for the compost heap. Very unusual and interesting floral display, guests were interested to know what it was!

  19. Weird. I noticed my rhubarb is flowering & we had a very mild winter! I’m going to cut the flowers off right now!

  20. Thanks for all of the good information! I live in NE and my plants were new last year. I have not even tilled for spring planting but my rhubarb flowers are about 3′ tall! I was really excited, last year the plants didn’t do so well, and they are bigger now than they grew all last summer! But I guess after reading all that y’all had to say I will cut them since I want them as a vegetable, not a flower garden.

  21. So glad I found this site. I went to inspect my newest rhubarb yesterday (I only planted it last year) and noticed this strange growth. I too didn’t know that rhubarb flowered, so thought it best to Google it before I did anything. So glad it isn’t a sign of some sort of disease!!

    Going to take the advice of cutting off the two flowers and putting them in a vase – just as soon as dawn breaks!

    Thank you!

  22. We had a very warm winter here in Vancouver, BC and mine flowered for the first time as well. The plant is very healthy and beautiful. I therefore feel that there must be another reason.

  23. Thanx to everyone for their input. I knew to cut their heads off (Queen of Hearts?) but wasn’t positive. Out to use the rhubarb guillotine and make centerpieces.

    DD from WI

  24. Illinois here and I’ve just beheaded one of my plants. The other two have no flowers. Thanks for the Information.

  25. Mine’s blooming in Port Coquitlam, BC – certainly no shortage rain here. I too am off to cut off it’s head – thanks for the info!

  26. Oh well, UK South/East very wet here for the past month or so but my Rhubarb is flowering, I didn’t know they did and I’ve had it for years Now it’s ‘Off with it’s head’

  27. Same place as you, George! Mind you, mine hasn’t flowered (touch wood), but lots flowering at the allotment!

  28. Also flowering in South Western Victoria, Australia. It has been unusually wet after 13 years of drought. Don’t know if that is the cause, winters are always really cold here.

  29. I have a massive flower spike on my rhubarb – it’s only a couple of years old, neglected to a point, but we also had a cold winter – Canberra, Australia

  30. My rhubarb flowered this year (in April 2013) and I didn’t know what to do about it until I found your site and discovered I needed to cut down the flowering stalks. The plant is only 3 years old and we didn’t have an unusually cold winter, but we had an unusually dry winter. We are in the Santa Cruz mountains about 30 miles south of San Francisco, California at an elevation of 2700 feet. Some winters we get a bit of snow, but usually it just rains here on and off from November or December through March. It just did not rain enough in the past few months.

  31. I am also new to growing rhubarb. I have to go out and cut flowers off now on the one plant I have left. Glad I found your site! (Last fall my other rhubarb plant, about a yard away from it’s twin, just withered up and died, and nothing of it came back this year. A mystery.)

    But a question: I planted my two pots of rhubarb (maybe 10″ high plants) in August of 2011. I know I wasn’t supposed to harvest any last year, so I didn’t. But can I start harvesting this year? And if so, how and when do I harvest? And will stalks grow back this year – does it rejuvenate over the summer? Meaning, will I get more than one harvest? (I planted them for cooking- and I really want some pie! I just don’t know exactly how how to proceed.) Thank you for indulging this newbie. -Central Ohio

    • Hi Mary Beth,

      You can lightly harvest your rhubarb this year, only take a few stems from each plant (should be enough to make a pie). Grab a stem at the bottom and rock it from side to side, it should pull away easily leaving a clean ‘wound’ at the base of the plant. The plant will continue growing throughout the year so don’t worry. The key thing is not to over-harvest your rhubarb this year, next year you should be able to harvest from spring through to early/mid summer.

    • Hi Mary, I too have two plants which were pieces chopped off by spade from the mother plant belonging to a dear friend of mine. If the stalks are a good length (approx. 15 cms plus leafy part) then start harvesting :) Just pull them from the plant in a downward motion as close to the base as possible. Remove the large leaf and discard/compost, wash the stalks, chop and go ahead and make pie! The rhubarb will replenish itself no problem, mine just keeps coming and I have to give lots away right up until September. I wash, chop and freeze it too. Simmered with sugar and a couple of small pieces of root ginger until just tender is delicious served with vanilla ice cream. Try and pick it often before the stalks get too thick as they will start to get tough and lose the delicate sweet flavour. Happy harvesting from Kent, UK!

    • Another thought Mary – if you have two plants, you could harvest from one plant only this year and see if it has a detrimental effect next spring. I don’t think I waited two years and certainly get more than enough. Don’t forget to heavily mulch with manure in autumn to protect the crown and feed the plant (yum yum!)

      • Clare, thanks for your advice, too. Helpful to read your rhubarb story. My plant is growing very fast right now!

  32. Hi my rhubarb also has flowered I have two plants one established for 6 years and one that’s just on its 3rd year the old dear is fab and ready for harvest, the Newby has lots of flowers on her, I thought it was just growing and left them but having read all comments ill go chop them, what I wanted to know is can you harvest and grow new plants from the flowers? And have I damaged my rhubarb by leaving the flowers on it? Can I still eat it?

    • Hi Jayne,

      There are lots of opinons on whether or not to remove rhubarb flowers, for me, I’d always remove them. Producing flowers and then seed takes up an enormous amount of the plants energy. You certainly could grow rhubarb from seed, but you would have to wait a long time before harvesting it, which is why I’d always buy crowns or split a dormant established crown. I doubt you have damaged your plant by leaving flowers on it, and it’s still edible. If you really want to grow your own rhubarb plants from seed, perhaps remove all but one flower, just to give your plant some energy back.

      • Thank you will go sort her out now, may leave one small flower see how it goes. It’s very cool as I’ve never seen rhubarb flowers before even on allotment x

        Sent from my iPhone

        • Hi Jayne, the flowers are very unusual looking! There are a few flowering on our allotment site with a possible bud forming on our patch of rhubarb. I’m keeping a close eye on it!

  33. And yet another flowering rhubarb in Sunny West Midlands England (not) going to cut off the flower and put it in a vase, see what it looks like in bloom. Thanks for the info, can you tell me how to transplant it somewhere else and when?

  34. Hi living in the UK the last 2 winters have been cold and my rhubarb has flowered both years I did nothing at the beginning of either winter as we have not had bad winters for a number of years then low and behold I remembered many years ago at the start of the winter I used to remove any dead leaves cover the plant with straw then put a bucket filled with straw over the crown believe me it started to shoot in February leave it covered till the end of March for early pulling GOOD LUCK buy the way you cant find rhubarb in Turkey but I don’t know why.

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