Rhubarb is an easy to grow vegetable that’s a common sight in vegetable gardens. Although it’s perfectly acceptable to grow this vegetable alone, you might find it beneficial to pair it with one or more rhubarb companion plants. That’s because rhubarb companion planting offers tons of advantages, including growth stimulation, pollinator attraction, and pest deterrence.
With this in mind, here’s a rundown of the five best plants to position alongside your rhubarb to keep it happy, healthy, and thriving throughout its lifetime.
Summary of How to Grow Rhubarb
Rhubarb is best grown in cool conditions and requires at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. You can grow rhubarb from both seeds or crowns (established roots). However, crowns are often preferred to seeds since they harvest earlier.
Start by planting the crowns in rows about 120 cm apart in deep, loose, well-drained soil. Ensure regular watering and application of well-rotted compost to keep the plant thriving.
After planting rhubarb, it’s best to wait two years (growing seasons) to give roots time to establish themselves.
Harvest in the third season, during spring, when leaf stalks are 2.5 cm or more in diameter, and the stems are about 60cm long. Grasp each stalk near the base, twist sideways, and pull outwards; leave a few younger central stalks to ensure a steady supply in the coming years.
Best Conditions for Growing Rhubarb
|Best Climate||Rhubarb thrives in areas with cooler climates where the temperature is below 40°F (5°C)|
|Plant Spacing||Rhubarb should be spaced 36 to 48 inches (91-120 cm) apart to give ample room for the plant to grow|
|Time till Harvest||Two years|
|Position||Full-sun (can also tolerate partial shade)|
|Annual or Perennial||Perennial|
Best Rhubarb Companion Plants
Now that you understand rhubarb cultivation, let’s look at a few ideal rhubarb companion plants.
Rhubarb and strawberries are just as good together in the garden as they are in your favorite sweet pie! That’s because strawberries help tamper down weeds and provide ground cover, offering rhubarb shade from the sun’s strongest rays.
These two don’t compete for space or nutrients and can be harvested simultaneously, making the whole process much simpler.
The rhubarb and bean combo perfectly represents Mother Nature working in harmony. On the one hand, beans help elevate nitrogen levels in the soil, which rhubarb is very grateful for since it’s a heavy feeder that requires lots of nutrients.
On the other hand, rhubarb gives back to the beans by repelling black fly aphids and keeping them safe from any unfortunate attacks.
Growing sage nearby your rhubarb plants is helpful for several reasons. For starters, its fragrant blooms attract pollinators and beneficial, predatory insects that will prevent any infestations.
Meanwhile, sage’s deep roots serve as excellent heavy soil aerators and help stimulate rhubarb’s growth.
Beetroots are great companion plants for rhubarb as they boost its flavor and prevent the rhubarb stalks from getting too “woody.” Rhubarb also assists beets by providing them with much-needed shade during the summer’s heat.
Lastly, the complementary red-and-green coloring of beetroot and rhubarb looks very attractive when planted beside each other, giving your garden beautiful visual appeal.
Many critters adore the leaves of rhubarb plants and their large surface area that makes them a beacon to leaf beetles. That’s where garlic comes in.
The high sulfur content of garlic makes it an excellent pest deterrent for your rhubarb, keeping those pesky invaders from compromising your plant’s health.
Bad Rhubarb Companion Plants
Next, let’s shine light on the three bad companions of rhubarb that can interfere with the growth and health of your plant.
Sweet, juicy melons like cantaloupes are pretty competitive when it comes to their light intake. These crops need plenty of sunlight to grow and react phototropically if their needs are not met. This means they will grow towards the light, growing up, and spreading over anything in the way, even your rhubarb!
Cucumber and rhubarb aren’t the best duo for companion planting. Since both plants grow in similar conditions and are heavy nutrient feeders, planting them together is a big no-no.
Cucumbers are more competitive than rhubarb. They can deplete the soil of essential nutrients and steal the sunlight, leading to malnourished and poor rhubarb yields.
While multiple trees make a good pairing with rhubarb, black walnut is not one of them. The main reason is that black walnut trees are allelopathic and known to release a compound called juglone in the soil.
This chemical impedes the growth of the rhubarb plant and stops it from reaching its true potential. So, despite their similar growing requirements, black walnut is a bad companion plant for rhubarb.
Final Thoughts on Rhubarb Companion Planting
Planting rhubarb alongside the right rhubarb companion plants helps improve the plant’s yield, growth, and pest resistance. By pairing rhubarb with plants that have complementary characteristics, you can create a thriving ecosystem in your garden. Just be sure to avoid melons or cucumbers near your rhubarb; these are bad companion plants for rhubarb and will only cause problems! In saying all of this, don’t be afraid to try new combinations either; gardening is all about experimenting and learning.
What should not be planted near rhubarb?
Avoid planting melons, pumpkins, sunflowers, and cucumbers near rhubarb. These plants can slow down the growth of the rhubarb by stealing away its nutrients and sunlight.
Can I plant marigolds with rhubarb?
Marigolds and rhubarb make a terrific companion planting duo, all thanks to their repellent effect on multiple garden pests like aphids, beetles, nematodes, etc. Marigolds also attract pollinators for the rhubarb plant and valuable insects that are predators of other harmful leaf pests.
Are strawberries and rhubarb companion plants?
Strawberries and rhubarb are a powerful team that mutually benefit from one another. Rhubarb plant provides ground cover to strawberries while strawberries’ deep roots break up soil and create space for the rhubarb roots to grow and thrive. These plants ripen around the same period and enhance each other’s flavor.
Do coffee grounds help rhubarb?
Yes! Since rhubarb is an acid-loving plant, coffee grounds can provide it with acidic mulch and essential nutrients to support the plant’s growth.
About the Author
Elle Reed is a passionate gardener and advocate for teaching beginner gardeners how to grow their own food. Elle’s mission is to inspire and empower people to get back to basics, grow their own produce, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle. “Whether it’s a few herb pots in an apartment, a potager or a full garden plot, we can all ‘start somewhere’ to grow our own food, and in doing so, provide healthier food for ourselves and those we love”.