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Rhubarb: Easy, Ornamental & Deer-Resistant!

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!


  • Nowhere in your article do I see the fact that rhubarb is a "heavy feeder’, and requires compost and/or steer manure at a pretty constant rate for success.
    As for deer, I am planting outside the garden fence this year and will spray like iIdo everything else that they might eat. . . I use a product with putrefied eggs and cayenne pepper and it really works for hostas and other deer treats.

  • Deer ate my huge rhubarb right to the ground.

  • Kim, what I have found with a quick google search is possible pests of rhubarb are aphids, slugs, or flea beetles. Before deciding what to use for pest control you do need to identify what pests are eating your plants. You can put out a pie tin with a little bit of old beer in it. That will attract slugs if they are the culprit. Once you know it is slugs, we have products labeled for slugs that will do the job. We also have a sticky trap kit for flea beetles (item number pit330), it has a pheromone lure that will attract flea beetles, then they get stuck on the trap. For aphids you should be able to see them, most likely on the underside of the leaves in the folds.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • Thank you for the info, Suzanne. Come spring, when my plants start to send out shoots I will be more vigilant peeking under the leaves.

  • Any ideas abt which bugs feast on rhubarb and on how to keep them away? Each spring my plants start to send out shoots, and then three weeks later I have nothing left … totally chewed to the ground. I live in Northern Nevada, so no slugs or snails to speak of. I’m thinking earwigs, but have never seen them munching away.

  • I hope you change the misleading message in this post about deer. There are so few plants that are truly off limits for deer! Even if they end up not liking something, those of us who live in deer country know that deer like to experiment.

  • I’ve always loved Rhubarb but also realized that if you bake it using Stevia you can eat it on the Atkins Phase 1 diet. You can’t have any fruit on Phase 1 but it’s like eating a fruit!

    Stephanie Stultz
  • CJ, the problem is if many deer come in to browse it (just a nibble) and by the time the whole herd has tasted it, your plant is gone. If deer have something else to eat they will typically leave it alone, but if deer are hungry, they will eat most anything. Best approach to keeping your plants safe is a tall fence.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • I had to move my rhubarb to a fenced area because the deer chewed it to the ground. I thought it was poisonous.

  • I 2nd Rick’s comments. Just watched a deer rip and tear at the rhubarb leaves in the neighbour’s garden. And the deer are not desperate for greens either….we’ve had an unusually wet early Summer and there are lush grasses everywhere.

    Gwen Hobbs
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