mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children

Off with its head! (The short life of a rhubarb flower)


rhubarb flower

Our rhubarb has flowered for the first time. We spotted the huge flower bud a week or so ago and had the sharpened secateurs at the ready. Conventional wisdom dictates that it must be decapitated immediately otherwise the plant will be weakened by the energy required for seed production and hence be less productive.

But we were curious. And the huge flower bud has been pushed skywards on one of the thickest flower stalks we’ve ever seen and a flower resembling mini red cauliflowers looks set to emerge. (The photo above was taken on a phone so it’s not as clear as it might be.)

Flowering can be a response to rhubarb undergoing some sort of stress; too cold, too hot, not enough water, starved of nutrients. Anything that potentially shortens its lifespan so it sends up a flower to reproduce. I suspect that in our case the flowering is likely to be due to the plant maturing. We inherited the rhubarb when we took on the allotment so I have no idea how old it is or even what cultivar it is.

So perhaps it’s time to think about dividing the rhubarb crowns next winter to rejuvenate them. In the meantime, the flower stalk is on the compost heap.


4 thoughts on “Off with its head! (The short life of a rhubarb flower)

  1. Rhubarb flowers are very strange aren’t they? One of our crowns attempted to flower last year so we divided the crown but the remaining part tried to flower again. Like you I don’t know how old our crowns are so we may need to move the crown to a new spot or even start again with a new one.

    • Yes, they’re very strange flowers – almost alien! I’ve been warned that once the flower head has been removed, the crown may send up another one, so a repeat deadheading may be needed. I suspect allotments around the country are full of rhubarb plants of unknown age and cultivar 🙂

  2. I was half hoping that you’d let it flower so we could see what a rhubarb flower fully open looks like! I think it will be a while before my rhubarb plants do this as they’re still just babies; I wonder if flowering affects the taste of the stems?

    • I was tempted to let it flower just to see what the flower looked like in all its glory. Here’s hoping the taste of the stems won’t be affected.

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