Rhubarb crowns can be used to grow new rhubarb plants.
Rhubarb crowns are the portions of a rhubarb plant located under the surface of the soil that consist of rhizomes and buds. The plant spreads and grows through the rhubarb canopies, and new plants can be propagated by dividing them. Unlike the reddish stems that grow from them, the plant’s crown and leaves are inedible. Keeping crowns healthy is vital to producing a strong crop. Rhubarb is a hardy plant that can be grown in gardens with relative ease; it can be hit by crown rot, however, which is very harmful to the plant.
When considered as part of the whole, rhubarb crowns are extremely important to the overall health of a plant, even though they are located underground. They function like roots, extracting nutrients and water from the soil. They consist of fleshy rhizomes, which spread along horizontal stems, and areas of new growth known as buds. They are responsible for the propagation and growth of rhubarb, and any damage to the canopy can have adverse effects on the entire plant.
Rhubarb is not usually planted from seed; Whole or split rhubarb crowns are purchased from a nursery, garden center or catalog and then planted. When planting the canopy, the soil should be prepared by loosening it and mixing it with compost or manure along with a small amount of fertilizer rich in phosphorus and potassium. The rhubarb crown should be placed in the soil approximately 2.5 to 5 cm deep for best results. After the plant has germinated and grown above ground, a layer of mulch material can be added to help preserve moisture and prevent weeds.
Rhubarb crowns can be used to propagate the plant by division. This is best done when the rhubarb is about six to 10 years old, in early spring. The crown can be dug up while the plant is dormant and broken into fist-sized pieces; each should have a large portion of root and at least one yolk. Once the new plant starts to develop, it is advisable to wait at least a year before harvesting the edible leaf stems and harvesting them sparingly in the second year.
Keeping rhubarb crowns in good condition is important for the vigor of the entire plant. Strong crowns produce larger yields and allow the plant to spread more vigorously. Rhubarb is normally a hardy plant that grows well with minimal care in cooler temperate areas. Occasionally, it develops crown rot from the Phytophthora fungus, which usually kills the plant by not responding to antifungal agents. The best treatment is prevention by planting rhubarb crowns obtained from reputable sources in well-draining soil.