Foliage is showy enough to qualify this plant for a display spot in the garden.
Bears giant, crinkled leaves with an elongated heart shape that are carried on thick, typically red-tinted stalks.
Leafstalks have a delicious, tart flavor and are typically used like fruit in sauces and pies. Produces insignificant flowers in impressive spikelike clusters. Each plant covers a 4-ft. circle of ground, grows 2 ft. tall.
Preferred varieties include 'Cherry' ('Crimson Cherry'), 'MacDonald', and 'Strawberry', all with red stalks; and 'Victoria', which produces greenish stalks. For strictly ornamental species of rhubarb, see Rheum.
Needs some winter chill for thick stems, good red color. Plant divisions (containing at least one bud) in late winter or early spring.
In Zones 10 and 11, treat as cool season annual and plant in fall for winter-into-spring harvest (plants tend to rot in heat of late spring, summer). Set tops of divisions at soil line; space 3-4 ft. apart.
Let plants grow for two full seasons before harvesting. In third season, you can pull off leafstalks for 4 or 5 weeks in spring; older, huskier plants can take up to 8 weeks of pulling.
To harvest leafstalks, grasp them near base and pull sideways and outward; do not cut with a knife, since cutting leaves a stub that will decay. Never remove all the leaves from a single plant; stop harvesting when slender leafstalks appear.
After harvest, feed and water freely; cut out any blossom stalks that appear. In the mildest areas, plants won't die back completely in winter.