Bloomin’ Rhubarb

If you grow rhubarb, this is a familiar, exciting sight this time of year.

Last year, I put in a few new rhubarb plants. They were rather inexpensive and I thought I could fill in ye olde rhubarb patch a bit. Then, this happened.

The variety I bought is an old-fashioned rhubarb variety known for bolting. I would not have bought it if I had realized this at the time, but it was an impulse buy. Bolting occurs when the plant sends up a flower stalk in an attempt to produce seed. Bolting reduces the amount of energy the plant has to put into leaf growth. We eat the delicious leaf stalks of rhubarb, so bolting reduces the harvest and is an undesirable trait. More modern rhubarb varieties have had the tendency to bolt bred out of them. I am reminded of modern commercial turkeys who can’t reproduce without human intervention, but I want more delicious rhubarb so I prefer the modern varieties too.

The flower is a little alarming and it looks something like pink cauliflower. The gardener can simply chop off the flower stalk, and the rhubarb should return its attention to growing leaves. It would be preferable to chop it off before it gets this big, but we were busy.

Now that the flowers are gone, hopefully our new rhubarb plants will go back to making pie fillings. I’m not sure if I’m willing to tolerate this behavior, or if I should dig them up and plant a different variety.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Bloomin’ Rhubarb

  1. Sometimes old varieties have superior flavor. Just saying.

    • You make an excellent point. That is often true, but in this case, we will never get to eat this variety without killing it because it was one giant flower stalk and two piddly little leaves. I hope removing the stalk will force it into production mode, but we’ll see.

  2. TW

    We have this same deal with our rhubarb that we got from my boyfriend’s parents. We just lop off the stalk whenever we notice it and we still get more than enough rhubarb.

  3. Somer

    Too bad something so beautiful can be so pesky!

  4. I had no idea rhubarb could do that. Good thing to know for the future.

  5. Mine does this as well! Unfortunately I have no idea what variety it is, but like TW I just cut off the flower stalks and it’s fine the rest of the summer.

    • That’s my hope. The rhubarb in my garden that I really love is Crimson, but I think these newbies are Victoria. They have made, no joke, two leaves this year. :(

  6. Allie

    So have you decided on whether to get rid of the plant? Mine is bolting as well this year, it did last year, but it does produce a lot of leaves as well. I have no idea what variety it is, as it is from the previous owner who lived here 35+ years.

    • Yours might be bolting because it’s very mature. I have heard that can happen. There’s a lot of advice on how to rejuvenate your rhubarb (mostly just divide and separate). If you like the taste and it’s productive, it might be worth dividing it. I have not yet decided what to do about mine. I’m waiting to see if it picks up since the flower stalks are gone.

  7. Amy

    I had a rhubarb variety that bolted every chance it got. For 2 years I patiently removed the flower stalks, and a couple weeks later it would have sprouted more. it never did make enough leaves to be worth the trouble. I eventually pulled it out and bought a better variety. Best of luck with yours though, western WA has a very different climate than NE, so maybe yours will be better behaved.

    • So far, these particular rhubarbs have not made any more leaves. They are going on my list to remove and replace (next year? or whenever I get around to it)

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