How much sun is requied for rhubarb?

ikea_gwMay 18, 2011

I have a partial shade backyard that gets direct sun only from 8am til 1pm. Is this going to be enough for rhubarb 'Victoria'? Do they like full sun? I am in Virginia.

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Lisa Stevens

Rhubarb needs full sun. I'd look for a sunnier spot. :)

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 3:24PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

In my experience rhubarb will tolerate a fair bit of shade. I keep reading on here that it needs full sun and yet in British gardening books/articles it is considered to be a plant which you can use to fill up a shady spot. 5 hours a day would seem ample to me. It's more than mine gets and my patch is 20 years old and going fine. What it DOES need is deep rich moist soil.

Here's mine last year - doesn't seem to be suffering from lack of sun.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 4:43PM
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luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)

Ikea, I agree with Flora. I had a rhubarb patch about 20x20 that grew under a huge fir tree. I'm guessing that it was in 60-70% shade. Older neighbors said that the patch was at least 30 years old. It was a beautiful patch that gave way to a landscaping project. My neighbor still has a patch in similar conditions and it does great. I think that rhubarb does better in cool, shady, composted and fertilized conditions. The only thing that I did for the patch was to throw rotted manure around them in the fall. Love those rhubarb custard pies!!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 4:56PM
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When I was growing up, we had an old variety rhubarb (green stalks and bitter) on the north side of a caragana hedge. It got maybe a hour or so of western setting sun in the evening and dappled sun during the day. We had another one out in a cattle pasture that got full sun all day. The one in full sun was bigger and more productive, while the shaded one seemed to be slightly smaller with less production. However, even being almost completely shaded, it always seemed to continue producing and growing quite well.

My sister has another green stalk variety rhubarb up against her house on the north-west corner. It only gets a few hours of sunlight and it is also doing fine.

All plants need as much sun as they can get, but if you're stuck with a shaded yard, you use what you have. I'd be tempted to give it a try.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 4:59PM
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Dan Staley

I was always told that rhubarb needed full sun too, and our standard reference states full sun. Ours gets full sun, but is exposed to our wind and always looks tattered. Maybe I'll move it now that I learned something today.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 5:38PM
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Maybe I will plant one in the shade and another one in full sun out front and see which does better. My backyard has very moist rich acidic soil and I was thinking that the rhubarb will be very pretty in the border there. I think the Victoria variety has green stalk with pink in it and it is supposed to have a tart taste. Has anyone grown it?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 5:58PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

ikea_gw - you'll notice that most all who have success with rhubarb and shade are quite a bit more north than you and I. Rhubarb thrives in the north. Not so in the south.

This far south it is usually grown as an annual because rhubarb, a cold-resistant perennial, thrives where maximum daytime temperatures average no more than 90 degrees F and humidity is low. Therefore, it will not grow well in most areas of the south simply because we get too hot and too humid too early.

So to avoid the thin leaf stalks which are spindly and lack color that usually results in the south we plant it very early in late winter to very early spring and in full sun to get some decent production. Whether your sun exposure will be enough to get some production now, I doubt because it is very late for planting. But since you have it you might as well plant it and see what happens.

Good luck. Maybe you'll be lucky to not have to depend on store bought rhubarb as most of we southerners do. :)


    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 6:10PM
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Dave, I read on Southern Exposure's web site that rhubarbs don't do well in the deep south because it gets too hot. They report on average a 25% rate of loss every year. And this is why I thought about planting it in partial shade in my backyard. It gets hot here in the summer but it is actually a lot cooler in the shade of tall trees, especially in the afternoon.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 6:47PM
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Dan Staley

Sunset Book of Garden Edibles sez some shade in hot climates. It sez full sun for us, which is why I'm glad Flora and others chipped in.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 7:07PM
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I recently read an article about growing rhubarb as an annual in the south. They used the Victoria variety and planted it in the fall from seed. I'm going to give it a try this fall, I've already put the seed on my Baker Creek order.
I'm also going to try annual strawberries. I wonder, though, if I would lose less if they got a shade cloth or afternoon shade when the heat hits?
I think the rhubarb problem in the south might be lack of chill hours in the winter.
I crave rhubarb, my mom grew it when I was a kid and when I would go visit my grandma in MN, every dessert was made with rhubarb. I can buy it here, frozen and sometimes even fresh, but it's very expensive.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 7:35PM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

From people's posts, rhubarb must have issues with heat, rather than sun: here, it handles very little sun perfectly well.
But it HATES being dry, and is only really happy when wallowing in horse pooh.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 3:43AM
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luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)

tracydr I think that you're right about the chill hours in winter being a factor. Not sure where I read this years ago, maybe Mother Earth News?, but chill hours was the problem of raising rhubarb in the south. Apparently, some people dig the roots with some soil and keep it in the frig. for a certain amount of time in the winter and replant each spring. I think that they keep it in a basket and plant the whole thing. Seems excessive, but when you get a rhubarb custard pie, I imagine that it's all worth the effort.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 7:28AM
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Ik, in SW VA our rhubarb looks as robust as those pics from the UK. It's down in the bottom of the garden where it stays moist, gets sun until around 4 in the afternoon. It took 3 years to really hit its stride, but now it's unstoppable.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 8:33AM
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tomva(7-central virginia)

wise county native here:o)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 9:51AM
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My Granddad had a huge patch of rhubarb under a weeping willow in the '50s, right next to a wooden water tank(on stilts). The water was pumped up from a nearby canyon. The spot got morning sun, afternoon shade. I love having that picture in my green...the water tank was half-covered in moss, the ground always moist. I used to grab the occasional rhu stalk just to chew on and Gramps was always telling me to leave enough for pie.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 1:42PM
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I worked for a nursery man as a teen. I ask him about a nice herbal plant under a big shade tree.
He said it is rhubarb, that people used it to make pie.
He said he did not eat it, just like the red stem & big green leaves.
So I have to say yes , it does good in shade.
But I am in zone 7/8, so I am one of these people, Dan is talking about.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 1:48PM
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Dang I'm jealous of all of you. I'm highly allergic to Rhubarb but the one time I had (which landed me in the hospital) it was yummy!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 2:09PM
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Hmm. Maybe I should dig up the roots during the summer and store it in the fridge?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 3:43PM
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I live in northeastern Oklahoma near Missouri, and I managed to keep one alive two years. The neighbors tree had a low limb and gave it shade for much of the summer. After the limb was removed the rhubard died. I am trying it again this year on the opposite end of the garden where it will be in the shade until about 2PM. So far, so good.

Just for the record, I have plenty of chilling hours so I believe the problem to be the summer heat and I have plenty of that too.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 4:44PM
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Wow I never expected so much input from everyone! A lot of rhubarb lovers out there. I don't think chilling hours is going to an issue here. I will plant one in shade and one in full sun and report back periodically on how they are doing. I just hope deer will stay away from it as the full sun spot is not fenced in like the shady spot in the backyard. Now if only I can convince my SO to eat rhubarb. *sigh*

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 11:29PM
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We're in a rural town and deer roam freely through it(much to gardeners' frustrations). I have read that deer do eat rhubarb, but I see large patches of it in many yards unprotected, so I purchased a small plant of it a couple weeks ago. Our apartment building is next to a vacant wooded lot that the deer use as a thoroughfare. I'm going to plant the rhubarb in a semi-shaded area and place a chicken wire cage over it until it gets established to keep the deer at bay for a while, then we'll see what happens...

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 2:13PM
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It was planted before I bought the house 12 years ago. northeast side of house in the dripline. I just cut the flowers out and it produces huge (2-3 inch stocks) till july) I mix in with strawberries and cherries for the best pies. alone it is an early tart sause. It is in the best plant status file. don't touch except to harvest, cut a stock or 2 when mowing around it and munch on the mower, makes awsom pies, people at work think I am a garden gurew for bringing it in.The house foundation (not the house ) Is from 1830.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 7:33PM
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