How to grow rhubarb

By Val Bourne

Rhubarb is an extremely useful crop for the gardener because one good-sized clump will provide food early in the year when little else is cropping.

Varieties like 'Timperley Early' will provide a crop of sweet red stems by March when grown in the garden. But it’s also possible to force rhubarb into premature growth by using a terracotta pot or upturned dustbin to create dark, warm conditions. This produces soft, champagne-pink stems up to six weeks earlier and they are delicious.

Rhubarb varieties

There are lots of varieties of rhubarb but the following list of readily available ones includes some old favourites and some newer ones. Bear in mind that the colour of the stems changes due to growing conditions. The north of England has the perfect climate - with cooler summers and harder winters - and this makes for redder stems.

'Timperley Early' (early) AGM

So early it’s probably better not to force it. The slender, long pink-red stems have a tart flavour that makes it an excellent crumble filler. Not a prolific cropper - but a must for all rhubarb lovers. Bred by H. Marshland in 1945 (widely available).

'Grandad's Favourite' (mid-season) AGM

Grown and named by Alan Bloom, who always breakfasted on rhubarb and managed to live to 98, this handsome variety (often exhibited on the show bench) also produces a heavy crop of brightly coloured stems with a full flavour (from R. V. Rogers).

'Fulton's Strawberry Surprise' AGM (mid-season to late)

Voted the best flavoured rhubarb in the RHS Wisley trials of 2003. Vivid red stems on a variety that is not too vigorous (exclusively from Thompson & Morgan).

'Raspberry Red' (mid to late-season)

An old Dutch Variety recently reintroduced with sweet red stems. Heavy cropper, for a sunny, open position (from Pennard Plants).

'Queen Victoria' (mid-season to late)

Colourful, strong red stems, easy and prolific. This heritage variety still holds its own today. Vigorous, makes huge clumps, so perhaps not for smaller gardens. Introduced in 1837 by Joseph Myatt. There is also a 'Prince Albert' (1840). ('Queen Victoria' is widely available. Pennard Plants stock 'Prince Albert').

'Hawke's Champagne' AGM (early to mid)

Delicately thin, long, scarlet stems with a sweet flavour from early Spring. An old variety, but easy to grow and ideal for forcing. Attractive to look at (available from Brandy Carr and Pennard Plants).

'Stockbridge Arrow' (late)

Heavy cropper producing suffused-red stems (that are extremely tender) by May. The best of the newer varieties and grown heavily for forcing in Yorkshire (Marshalls).

1 2 3 4 Next


  • Raspberries

    How to grow raspberries

    Late March is the ideal time to plant raspberry canes.

    Read on

  • Strawberries

    Many shop-bought strawberries lack flavour. How easy is it to grow your own?

    Val Bourne on how to get a succulent, scented crop of the nation's favourite berries.

    Read on

  • Prepare the ground for gooseberries in August

    Gooseberry growing tips

    Vivian Russell gives us essential growing advice for gooseberries.

    Read on

  • Grow your own sweetcorn

    How to grow sweetcorn

    Whether you cook it fresh or freeze it, there’s a real difference in flavour between home-grown cobs and commercially available sweetcorn.

    Read on

  • Kale cavolo nero

    How to grow brassicas

    Brassicas are among the easiest vegetables to grow and they can provide you with a crop at any time of year.

    Read on

  • James

    Posted: Saturday 13 April 2013

    You have a great overview of rhubarb! Growing them could be tricky sometimes. I've been growing my own rhubarb for a year now and i'm using conventional way. I just found out that we can also use other method in growing rhubarb such as through the use of hydroponics.


Type your comment here

 characters remaining.

Save 25% on RHS membership

Special offer for Saga readers

Be inspired with access to more than 150 RHS and partner gardens, plus enjoy priority bookings to the biggest garden shows in the country including RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Annual membership from £41.25.

Gardening Q&As

Gardening expert Val Bourne advises readers on planting and growing flowers, vegetables, trees and more.

More gardening articles

Browse our extensive archive for more gardening news and advice from our gardening experts.

Accused star Sean Bean discusses turning 50

He's best known as soldier Richard Sharpe and a Bond villain. So it's surprising, to say the least, to see 'ard man Sean Bean cast as a transvestite teacher with a blonde alter ego, Tracie, in BBC One's drama from Jimmy McGovern, Accused. Married four times, Sean, 53, is now single and lives in London. But how old is he in his head? Sean Bean takes the grown-up test

Saga Magazine

For more fascinating stories and insightful articles, why not try Saga Magazine for just £1 for 3 issues.

Garden Holidays

Discover the natural world

Experience some of the world’s most magnificent horticultural locations, including South Africa, Madeira, Canary Islands, Greece and the UK.

Saga Dating

The over 50s dating website from Saga

  • Create your dating profile in less than 5 minutes
  • Our unique two-way matching process will help you find your perfect partner
  • Protected by the Online Dating Association

Saga Puzzles

Free daily puzzles to play online. Choose from crosswords, codewords and sudokus with new puzzles added every day.