Less Noise, More Green: Bolting Rhubarb

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bolting Rhubarb

Bolting rhubarb

I know rhubarb is not high on the list of many people's favorite fruit, but it is high on mine. I find rhubarb so versatile, being at home in both sweet and savory dishes. I have been eagerly awaiting the time when I can start harvesting stalks, so I've been closely watching my plants grow. This week I noticed some strange bulbous stalks growing in the center of the plants and I realized my rhubarb was bolting!

Bolting in rhubarb is usually caused by excessive drought,  unusually high temperatures, age or depleted soil. As we have had plenty of rain this spring, normal temperatures and the plants are two years old, this left the soil as the most likely culprit.

I sprinkled a half cup of organic fertilizer around each plant and gave them a good watering. I also removed the flower stalks. Producing flowers and seeds takes a lot of energy and the general vigor of the plant is compromised. Even though the flowers are quite dramatic, they had to go.

Make sure your rhubarb gets a weekly watering, more in high temperatures, and every four to five years, divide the plant to promote new growth.

Bolting rhubarb

While researching this issue, I discovered that some varieties of rhubarb such as Victoria, which is what I have, are more prone to bolting and the key is to watch for it and nip it in the bud (literally) as soon as you see it starting.

On a forum, one reader in the UK consulted a rhubarb expert about her bolting rhubarb. He told her that severe winters can prompt rhubarb to bolt the following spring. The plant, not knowing if more cold is coming, goes into species survival mode and procreates. We have just gone through the worst winter, here in New England, in a long time. My poor rhubarb is producing post apocalypse babies!

Flowering stalk, just beginning to develop.

Now I know what to look for, I can remove the flower stalks sooner and avoid having to do so much damage to the plants. I think I will start harvesting stalks very soon, just in case I have done irreparable harm.

Rhubarb is not a plant that usually needs a lot of attention. If you have it in your own gardens, you might want to take a look just to be sure all is well!

See you in the rhubarb patch,


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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Sorry Sabrina, I accidentally deleted your comment! I'm glad the post was helpful to you. Please let me know how your rhubarb does this year if you remove the flower stalk.

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