Rhubarb: Easy, Ornamental & Deer-Resistant!

By on February 17, 2012

Grow rhubarb for its bold leaves and RHUBARB PIE!

Want an easy edible that looks good too? Include rhubarb in your vegetable garden or your landscape, for brilliant color that the deer won’t bother.

Perennial vegetables like rhubarb are such garden winners—plant them and have them in your garden for years to come, with very little maintenance.

Tricia plants rhubarb in our video, and talks about its easy care. Rhubarb can grow in full sun or part shade.

Rhubarb Pie in Your Future

The most popular reason to plant rhubarb is to be able to enjoy springtime rhubarb pies, compotes, and crisps—and to create preserves. The leaves are inedible but the edible stalks are ready to hop into your pie plate.

Did you know we have recipes on our site? On our Organic Gardening Resource Center page we have a list of Recipes, including a wonderful one for Rhubarb Crisp!

Colorful Stalks Brighten Your Garden

Grow rhubarb for its good looks too. If you choose a variety with red or pink stalks you’ll have a dramatic contrast with the dark green leaves.

There is a range of colors in rhubarb varieties, but they all have the same flavor. Open-pollinated rhubarb varieties will show some variation in color. A gardener recently asked us if the stalk colors change with soil pH (like the flower color in hydrangeas)—and the answer is no, the stalk colors don’t fluctuate with pH.

Ivette Soler, author of The Edible Front Yard, says that rhubarb “has the ornamental impact of that other architectural edible, the artichoke, with equally impressive leaves.” Use it as the centerpiece or to mark the corners of your garden areas.

Rhubarb is a Deer-Resistant Edible

Do you have a herd of deer that think your garden is their home away from home? They’ll probably turn up their pretty noses at rhubarb. The rhubarb leaves contain a poison (oxalic acid) and eating the leaves is toxic for deer and humans alike.

Rhubarb is a Perennial

Rhubarb, like all perennial vegetables, will flower as part of its growth, as shown in our top photo. Some gardeners see the leaves of rhubarb and think it’s a leafy green—then become concerned that the rhubarb is bolting when it flowers. Fear not. Purdue University does say you can remove the flowers to let the growing energy go to other parts of the plant, so if the flowers worry you, go ahead and snip them off.

For more information about growing rhubarb, consult our Growing Guide.

Grow rhubarb for pie, grow it for looks, but don’t miss out on this easy edible!

  Comments (9)


I don’t know about the deer in your area, but in the Methow Valley/Twisp River Valley of Eastern Washington, the deer go out of their way to mow down my young rhubarb ...eating it to the soil.  They also go after the golden, red, and black currants I have.  The only thing that I have that is “resistant” is the fencing I have had to put up around these.

PS your webform for comments is terrible in that if the email address is bad, the entire comment is lost when one tries to return to fix it.  Most annoying.

Posted by stanislav fritz on Feb. 17, 2012 at 5:36:33 PM

Stanislav, Thanks for your tips on deer in your area. Deer appetites vary depending on the garden, the weather, and even the individual deer. In my Sierra Nevada foothills garden I am mobbed by deer but they never touch the mature rhubarb.

“Never say never” is the motto for discussing deer resistant plants, which is the garden world has stopped called plants “deer proof”.

The deer resistant plants we carry online and in our Grass Valley nursery are those that are generally ignored by deer.

As you say, fencing is the best way to ensure your plants (especially young plants) grow undisturbed.

I will pass along your thoughts about the comments feature to our webmaster. We appreciate your helpful suggestions!

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Feb. 19, 2012 at 12:35:15 PM


I have found rhubarb to be deer resistant, too, but we don’t have high density.

I grow about 175 rhubarb plants and was puzzled when a new bed of genetically identical divisions had cracked stems, poor stem color and more rhubarb curculio damage. The ph was close to 7, causing a boron deficiency (cracked stems) and apparently iron uptake problems too since the stalks are redder one year later. I went a little heavy on biochar and wood ashes… I am giving a foliar feed to supplement iron and boron until the ph is fully corrected. The soil is sandy loam and that plays a role, too.

Posted by David Booth on Jun. 12, 2014 at 11:54:45 AM


Text and video are very informative as far as they go, but I would like to know more about when/how to divide plants plus any other maintenance suggestions.

Posted by Kennie Lyman on Jul. 14, 2015 at 10:38:15 AM

Kennie, are you wondering about dividing rhubarb? I would divide the plants when they are starting to wake up, in the Spring. This way you will be able to see the actively growing tips.  Lift them out of the ground and cut them up into smaller pieces, you should be able to see growing tips. Try not to damage the active tips. The roots are pretty hardy so you can just cut them. If not replanting right away, keep the roots and tips moist, like moist saw dust.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Jul. 15, 2015 at 9:54:27 AM


I believe that deer LOVE eating my rhubarb. (Sydney australia - near royal national park)

Posted by pete on Dec. 09, 2015 at 2:31:39 AM

If the deer are hungry enough, they will eat many things that normally would be safe. If deer population is high, I would protect your plants.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Dec. 10, 2015 at 11:52:40 AM


I live in Western Washington and had two plants growing in my back yard and woke up in the morning and found both my rhubarb plants leaves missing. I was super sad cause I thought with my dogs roaming the back yard the deer would stay away. I live at the ocean where the deer seem to eat everything you plant.

Posted by Sarina on Jun. 16, 2016 at 6:40:16 AM

Sarina, as you have found out that deer will even eat deer resistant plants if they are hungry enough. Especially true if you have a whole herd come through and just browse your plants. They can be eaten pretty quickly.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Jun. 17, 2016 at 9:12:28 AM

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