Rhubarb Plant Dying? Here Are The Most Likely Reasons Why And How To Fix It

Your rhubarb plant is dying may be due to not having enough water, it might have too much water, it might be lacking nutrients in the soil or it may be infected by fungi.

The Rhubarb plant is well-known for its use as a vegetable and medicinal herb. This perennial bush has survived the snows of Germany, Poland, and Asia.

The leaves are usually consumed in their raw form during the winter months, but they make a good substitute to spinach and chard during the summer period.

Rhubarb was believed to be used in ancient Greece. It is widely popular because of its usage in desserts and drinks.

What is wrong with my rhubarb plant?

Rhubarb plants are generally very hardy and disease-resistant.

However, there are a few issues that can affect rhubarb if the plant is stressed. This article will help you diagnose the problem of your dying rhubarb plant:

The first step to determining why your rhubarb is dying is to examine the plant for insects or diseases. The primary insect pests that affect rhubarb are ants and aphids.

Aphids can be removed by hand or with a strong blast of water from a garden hose.

Ants often introduce aphids into gardens, so removing their nests, which are typically visible as small mounds in the soil around the base of the plant, will help reduce infestations.

Another common problem of dying rhubarb is crown rot, which is caused by various fungi that thrive in wet conditions.

Symptoms include darkening of leaf edges and stems, followed by yellowing and wilting, eventually resulting in death of the entire plant.

Crown rot usually begins at the base of the plant and works its way up through roots into stems and leaves.

Tip: To prevent crown rot, ensure your plants have good air circulation between plants and at their base (do not crowd them) and do not over-water them; allow the top several inches.

Why is my rhubarb turning yellow and dying?

The yellowing of the leaves could be due to a few things.

-Not enough water- Rhubarb needs to be watered regularly, especially when it is first planted and when the stalks are forming.

Failing to provide adequate water will cause the leaves to turn yellow. Water rhubarb with 1 inch of water per week, or more if it is dry out and warm.

-Overwatering- Rhubarb doesn’t like overly wet soil conditions.

If you give it too much water, the roots won’t have enough oxygen. This causes the leaves to turn yellow and die back.

To prevent this from happening, don’t overwater your rhubarb or plant in overly wet areas, such as near a leaky pipe or where water naturally accumulates in your yard.

-Nutrient deficiencies- A lack of nutrients, such as nitrogen or potash (potassium), will cause rhubarb plants to turn yellow and become stunted in growth.

A low nitrogen level causes the lower leaves on the plant to die back first and then make their way up the stalk until only yellow stalks remain.

Iron deficiency can also cause the leaves to turn yellow around the edges but this is a rarer occurrence.

Some other reasons why your rhubarb is dying

No air flow

Rhubarb is a very hardy plant. Most of the time they do not need much attention at all. The only thing to watch out for is air flow and moisture.

If your rhubarb plant is not getting enough air flow it will start to wilt, turn yellow and die.

Rhubarb plants need to be exposed to the elements, especially rain and wind so make sure you are not planting your rhubarb in an area where it will be sheltered from the elements.

Dry soil

The rhubarb plant requires a consistent supply of water to grow well.

When growing it in containers, water more frequently than when growing it in the ground.

Water your rhubarb plant once daily if you live in an area with hot, dry weather, and every few days if the weather is cooler and wetter.

Keep your finger 1 inch into the soil and check that it feels slightly damp, but not sopping wet. Water until the soil feels moist all the way through.

Do not allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions or your rhubarb plant will begin to wilt and may die from lack of moisture.

Dry soil is generally not good for rhubarb, but it can survive in dry conditions if it’s well established and has had adequate water during the growing season.

Why are my rhubarb stalks soft?

Rhubarb plants have a tendency to get soft and mushy if they are too old.

If you have had the same rhubarb plants for a number of years, it is time to throw them out and start afresh. This will solve your problem, as the new seedlings will be fresh and stiff.

It is best to plant them in soil that has been enriched with well-rotted manure or compost at least one year before planting.

Rhubarb does not like water-logged soils so avoid planting in heavy clay or poorly drained areas. Planting rhubarb in soil that is too rich or has excess nitrogen will also cause soft stalks.

Can rhubarb be overwatered?

Rhubarb is a hardy plant that requires little care once established.

The plants are drought-tolerant, but you should water them regularly for best growth. Overwatering is your biggest challenge with rhubarb, especially if the plants are grown in heavy clay soil or have been planted too deeply.

Too much water can cause plants to rot, which is fatal to rhubarb. While the roots of rhubarb plants can grow deep, it’s best not to transplant them deeper than they originally were growing.

The best way to check for overwatering is to dig down next to the plants and see if there is standing water or mucky soil conditions.

Rhubarb prefers sandy or loamy soil that drains quickly and holds nutrients well, so you may want to amend your soil before planting the crowns or seedlings, or add organic matter in the spring.

If your garden has heavy clay soil, you will need to amend it before planting rhubarb crowns or seedlings. Rhubarb likes rich, organically improved soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8 — slightly acidic is best.

If you have heavy clay, work 3 inches of compost into the top 12 inches.

Overwatering is a common cause of bacterial wilt.

This occurs when the roots are sitting in water for too long, and the fungus Fusarium oxysporum infects them, leading to wilting of the leaves.

Rhubarb is relatively resistant to this disease, but you should still avoid overwatering.

You can also get bacterial wilt from picking and eating rhubarb that has become infected with the bacterium Erwinia stewartii, which enters the plant through wounds and colonizes the vascular tissue, blocking water flow to the leaves and causing them to wilt.

This can happen if you eat infected rhubarb and then pick more rhubarbs from different plants before washing your hands, or else use a knife that was used on an infected plant to cut another one.

What causes rhubarb to rot?

Rhubarb rot is caused by several different fungi that may initially appear as water-soaked spots on the plant’s stalks.

The spots may eventually turn tan or brown in color and become sunken.

Advanced symptoms of rhubarb rot include slime formation on the stalks, discoloration of the rhizomes, or roots, as well as mold growing on the rotting areas of the plant.

Favorable conditions for fungal growth include temperatures ranging from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 23 C.) with high humidity levels.

Fusarium oxysporum is a fungus that rots the roots of rhubarb plants and is carried easily by ants.

The best way to deal with this is prevention: keep ants away from your garden area by using diatomaceous earth or another ant repellent, or by simply blocking their trails to your garden with a line of pine resin or baby powder along their paths.

Ants are fond of aphids, so if you have aphid problems, you’ll probably also have ants!

How do you revive a rhubarb plant?

The first thing to do is work out what is wrong with your rhubarb. Is it in the right position? Do you need to feed it? Is it receiving too much water? Too little?

It is possible that your rhubarb plant has simply been stressed out. If the weather has been particularly hot or dry, be sure to water it regularly.

The most common reason for yellowing leaves on rhubarb plants is lack of fertilizer or too much fertilizer.

Fertilizers are generally divided into two classes: organic and inorganic.

Organic fertilizers are made from natural materials such as manure, compost, seaweed, soybean meal and blood meal; inorganic fertilizers are manufactured from petroleum products and contain chemical compounds (e.g., nitrates) that can leach into groundwater supplies.

If you have used an inorganic fertilizer on your plant, try using an organic one instead!

Make sure that your plant has enough sunlight; if it doesn’t get enough light during the day, it will produce fewer leaves than usual and those leaves may turn yellow or brown prematurely due to a lack of chlorophyll production by those cells which are not getting enough sunlight exposure time per day and therefore cannot make chlorophyll.

How to water rhubarb properly?

Watering is an important step to ensure the growth of your rhubarb and its successful development.

Rhubarb is a hardy, drought-resistant plant that does not require much water to thrive. However, it is important to water your rhubarb properly so that it can grow well and produce quality stalks.

Rhubarb will not survive in dry soil, so you should water your rhubarb during extended periods of hot weather or drought.

During the first two years of planting, water regularly so that the soil never dries out completely. In the third year and onwards, you can usually rely on rainwater to keep your rhubarb moist.

The best time to water rhubarb is when it starts growing leaves and stems again after being transplanted to the ground.

This will help the plant grow better because the leaves will absorb more nutrients from the soil and roots.


If you’ve come across a problem with your rhubarb plant and are looking for a way to fix it, hopefully you found the above points helpful.

We’d recommend trying different methods of care, with attention to each possible reason listed above.

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