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Rhubarb, a hardy perennial, is a garden favorite for many. But have you ever heard of forced rhubarb? This unique method transforms the humble rhubarb into something extraordinary. Let’s dive into the world of forced rhubarb and discover how you can grow this delightful plant in your own garden.

How to grow Forced Rhubarb

To grow forced rhubarb, cover crowns in early winter with a forcing jar or dark container to exclude light. Place in a warm, dark environment for about 8 weeks. Transfer to a well-lit area, and harvest the tender stems. In the UK climate, forced rhubarb provides an early, sweet harvest for culinary delights.

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Introduction to Forced Rhubarb

Forced rhubarb is a gardening technique that involves growing rhubarb in darkness to produce early, tender, and sweeter stalks. This method is not just about growing a plant; it’s about creating a culinary delight that’s both visually appealing and deliciously different from your standard rhubarb.

Understanding the Basics of Forced Rhubarb

Understanding the Basics of Forced Rhubarb

What is Forced Rhubarb?

Forced rhubarb is grown in the absence of light, which accelerates its growth and changes its flavor profile. This technique results in rhubarb that is paler in color but richer in taste compared to its sun-grown counterpart.

History and Origin of Forced Rhubarb

The practice of forcing rhubarb dates back to the early 19th century in the UK. It was discovered that rhubarb grown in dark sheds during winter resulted in a crop that was ready to harvest in early spring, offering a sweet treat in the otherwise sparse season.

Preparing for Planting

Selecting the Right Rhubarb Variety

Not all rhubarb varieties are suitable for forcing. Varieties like ‘Timperley Early’ and ‘Victoria’ are excellent choices for this method. Look for varieties that are known for their sweetness and robust growth.

Soil Preparation and Requirements

Rhubarb thrives in well-drained, fertile soil. Before planting, enrich your soil with plenty of organic matter. Rhubarb prefers a pH between 6.0 and 6.8, so test your soil and adjust accordingly.

Planting and Initial Care

Planting Techniques for Forced Rhubarb

Planting Techniques for Forced Rhubarb

Plant rhubarb crowns in early spring or late autumn. Space the crowns about 75-90 cm apart and plant them so that the top of the crown is just at the soil surface. Water well after planting.

Initial Care and Maintenance

In the first year, focus on establishing your rhubarb plants. Avoid harvesting any stalks to allow the plant to grow strong and healthy. In the second year, you can start the forcing process.

Advanced Growing Techniques

The next part of this article will delve into the specific techniques of forcing rhubarb, including the right timing and conditions, as well as the maintenance and care required for these special plants.


We will also answer some frequently asked questions about forced rhubarb, providing you with expert advice and tips to ensure your success in growing this unique crop.

External Resources

For more detailed information on growing rhubarb, check out the Royal Horticultural Society’s guide. Their comprehensive advice covers everything from choosing the right variety to tackling common problems.

Advanced Growing Techniques for Forced Rhubarb

Timing and Conditions for Forcing

Forcing rhubarb typically begins in January. The process involves covering the plant with a dark, airtight container, like a forcing jar or a bucket, to exclude light. This encourages the plant to produce stalks earlier than it would naturally.

Table: Forcing Schedule

Month Action
January Begin forcing by covering plants
February Check for growth; maintain darkness
March Harvest tender, pale stalks

Maintenance During Forcing

Light and Temperature Control

Keep the rhubarb in complete darkness and at a temperature of around 10-13°C (50-55°F) for optimal growth.

Watering and Feeding

Water sparingly during the forcing period. Overwatering can lead to rot. No additional feeding is necessary during this stage.

Post-Harvest Care

After harvesting your forced rhubarb, remove the covering and allow the plant to grow normally. This helps the plant recover and ensures its health for the following season.

FAQs About Forced Rhubarb

FAQs About Forced Rhubarb

Forced rhubarb is typically ready to harvest in about 4-8 weeks after covering.

It’s best to rotate and not force the same plant in consecutive years. This gives the plant time to recover and maintain its health.

Yes, forced rhubarb tends to be sweeter and more tender than its sun-grown counterpart.

Freshly harvested forced rhubarb can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It can also be frozen for longer storage.