How to grow rhubarb in pots – the easy way to grow your own in a small garden or balcony

Does rhubarb grow well in pots? Anyone short on soil space will be pleased to know the answer is a resounding yes!

Rhubarb growing in pots in a potager garden
(Image credit: Alamy)

Tart and delicious, rhubarb is perfect to grow at home, but if you're shot on space you can easily learn how to grow rhubarb in pots. 

That's right: growing rhubarb is one of the easiest crops around because you don't need lots of space to do it – making it one of the best vegetables to grow in pots

In fact, this low-maintenance edimental is every bit as happy in a container as it is in the ground... so long as you follow our expert-approved tips and growing tricks, of course!

How to grow rhubarb in pots

With so many of us interested in learning how to grow blueberries in pots and how to grow tomatoes in containers, it seems container gardening is well and truly poised for a GYO-themed makeover – with rhubarb the next must-try item on our list.

'If you have a small garden, patio or balcony, don't worry: you can still grow and harvest delicious rhubarb stems very easily,' promises Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries. 

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants. He established the thriving business in 1992, shortly after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex. 

Rhubarb plants in a winter garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Mostly thought of as a plant that needs a lot of space in a garden bed or on an allotment, it’s actually one of the easiest vegetables to grow in pots,' continues Morris, 'although it’s often mistaken for a fruit because of its sweetness and use in recipes such as fruit crumble or compote!'

As a hardy perennial, rhubarb will keep producing delicious stems for many years – if you start the job as you mean to go on, that is.

What you will need

Before we dive into the equipment you'll need when learning how to grow rhubarb in pots, it's worth taking a bit of time to consider which of the three rhubarb-growing methods you will be adopting.

'Rhubarb can be sown from seed but it takes a very long time to get to the point of harvesting it,' says Morris. 'The easiest way to grow rhubarb is to plant rhubarb crowns (a dormant bare root plant) between autumn and spring, or buy a pot-grown rhubarb and plant it straight outside.'

Where to buy rhubarb crowns:

Young new shoots emerging from garden rhubarb crowns in soil

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'I recommend asking friends and neighbours if they have any rhubarb crowns because as they age their vigour decreases and they get really big,' suggests Morris. 

'The best way to control that is to divide the crowns over winter and replant, meaning the divisions  can also be gifted!'

Once you've sorted out your rhubarb crowns (or seeds, or pre-grown plants), you'll need to pick up the following items:

Step-by-step guide

Now that you've got all your equipment together, it's time to learn how to grow rhubarb in pots – especially as it's a subtle nod to this year's big purple vegetable GYO trend

1. Prep ypour pot

Morris says that you need to look for a 'large pot that is at least 50cm wide and at least 50cm deep', and fill it with peat-free compost.

'Rhubarb doesn’t like to be waterlogged,' he explains, 'so make sure there are drainage holes, and remember that it can be helpful to stand the pot onto pot feet or bricks.'

2. Plant your rhubarb

Rhubarb growing in a pot in an allotment

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Once you've prepped your pot, take your rhubarb crown (or pre-grown plant) and be sure to plant with the main bud (or where the leaves are growing from) so that they sit just above the compost level.

3. Show them some TLC

Morris says that your compost is more likely to dry out in pots as the rhubarb grows, so be sure to water regularly.

'Don’t overwater, though, as the crown can rot if too wet or waterlogged,' he adds, noting that a mulch of well rotted organic matter each year.

'This will help it to retain moisture and you can feed it with a general fertiliser during the spring or summer months if needed,' he finishes.

4. Harvest your rhubarb correctly

Close up of rhubarb growing in plastic pots

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When the stems are ready, Morris says that you will see new foliage and red or pink stems of at least 30cm long. 

'These shouldn’t be snipped off which can cause rotting – they prefer a twist and pull!' he continues. 'Simply place your hand around the base of the stem and give it a gentle pull. Some will come away very easily and others may need a twist and a bigger pull being careful not to damage the crown.' 

You’ll be able to harvest your rhubarb from late April until about June, at which point it is best to leave them so the plant doesn’t weaken and grows back again the following year. 

'Only harvest about one third of the stems each year and in the first year after planting a crown, you’ll need to be patient and not harvest any until the second year to allow the rhubarb to grow strong first,' advises Morris.


Does rhubarb grow well in pots?

While rhubarb plants require a decent amount of space to grow, they are actually one of the very easiest vegetables to grow in pots – so long as you find one big enough for their expansive root systems.

What is the best rhubarb to grow in pots?

There are many varieties of rhubarb with various colour stems, but there are some that work better as container plants than others.

Rhubarb growing in a pot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Rhubarb Timperley Early is a well known variety which can be harvested early in the season (rhubarb season is spring through summer),' says Morris. 

'Rhubarb Raspberry Red’, meanwhile, is vigorous and tender, while Rhubarb Victoria is one of the oldest varieties still available. And, finally, Rhubarb Glaskins Perpetual is very flavoursome with a long harvesting period,' he adds.

Does rhubarb grow best in sun or shade?

Rhubarb grows well in a sunny or partially-shaded position, so be sure to place your pots accordingly. And remember that they do best in moist, well-drained soil, so be sure to water regularly throughout the growing season.

How do you force rhubarb and encourage it to grow?

'Rhubarb can be "forced", which means excluding light in late winter so the stems shoot up quickly and can be harvested earlier than other stems,' says Morris. 

'This shouldn’t be tried with new plants and never the same plant each year. So to force potted rhubarb, you will need more than one plant so you can alternate as needed.'

Morris explains that you should cover over the growing crown with a bucket, dustbin or rhubarb jar and put a brick on top to keep it in place. 

'By springtime you will find some sweet, light pink stems ready to be harvested. After harvest, leave the crown to get sunlight and continue to grow.'

What do you do with rhubarb flowers?

If you find any big flower stems shooting up in summer, Morris urges you to remove these as soon as you see them.

'This will allow the plant to continue putting energy into stems rather than flowers that you don’t need,' he adds. 'And don’t forget that rhubarb leaves are toxic and definitely not for eating, so throw them on your compost pile!'

Now that you know how to grow rhubarb in pots, you have a future filled with jams, pies, crumbles, and other delicious baked goods ahead of you. Bon apetit!

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.