This delicious herbaceous perennial lives for a number of years, so although it can die down during winter months it does bounce right back up again in spring, making it a great (almost) continual harvest.

Only the stems of rhubarb are eaten. In fact the leaves contain toxic levels of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is present in many vegetables in varying amounts, but it has also been linked to kidney stones.

Rhubarb plants can be divided by cutting through the crown (centre of the plant), ensuring that ‘eyes’ are present on each division. Crowns can also be bought from garden centres and planted during winter throughout Australia.

It does best in cooler climates but also does reasonably well in Queensland’s sub-tropical environments. Temperatures below -3 degrees C will damage above ground plants, but this is only temporary as new stems are likely to grow back if the crown survives.


Rhubarb can be grown in a wide range of soil types but they need to be well drained. Deep loam rich with organic matter is the ideal soil environment, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. It does like a lot of nutrients too, so organic matter with animal manure is preferable.

When crowns start growing, additional liquid fertiliser feeds of seaweed extract or carp will kick them along.

And rhubarb isn’t exactly a low water use crop, but a plant or two isn’t going to be an issue to keep watered – surely?

Stalks are picked from the outside as required. Pluck downwards and sideways to pull the stalk away from the crown.

Pests and Diseases

Snails may cause occasional damage but otherwise rhubarb is quite trouble free. In sub-tropical areas it can be susceptible to fungus diseases.

Insect Spray

Rhubarb leaves make a great insecticide! Boil rhubarb leaves in water (about 1:10 ratio), then add a small amount of soap (not detergent) and strain. Spray as required.

Information sources:

Yates Garden Guide, 42nd Edition, 2006, published by Harper Collins Publishers.
Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Queensland