Common Disease Problems
Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on leaves, stems and crowns. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish grey patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet.
Leaf Spot: Several fungus diseases cause circular or angular spots with beige centers and reddish edges. Affected tissue may die and may drop out of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Remove and destroy affected plant parts and any plant debris. Practice good garden sanitation.
Root and Crown Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots of seedlings as well as mature roots and crowns. Burpee Recommends: Pull up and discard infected plants. Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Virus (Various causes): The most characteristic sign of virus is mottling or ring spots on the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Plant disease free roots. Remove affected plants.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Flea Beetles: These small hopping beetles feed on plant foliage and may spread diseases. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different plant family. Use floating row covers to prevent damage to young foliage.
Potato Stem Borer: This caterpillar is about 1- ½ inches long and pinkish white. They feed on surrounding weeds, and bore into the stalks of rhubarb. The adult is a moth. Burpee Recommends: Control weeds. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Tarnished Plant Bug: These insects cause distorted leaves. The adults are about ¼ inch long, oval shaped and flat. They are greenish brown with reddish brown markings on their wings. There is a small but distinct yellow tipped triangle in the center of the back behind the head. Burpee Recommends: Introduce beneficial insects to your garden. Traps are available. Try insecticidal soap.
Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.
My roots arrived moldy, are they ok? Will it spread to other plants? This is just a surface mold from shipping and may be wiped off before planting. If the roots are firm and not slimy they are good to plant. It will not affect other plants.
I used to grow rhubarb in Wisconsin, can I grow it here in Florida/Southern California? No, this is a perennial vegetable that needs a cold dormant period. It will not thrive in zones 9-10.
Can I eat the leaves or roots? No, all parts of the plant are toxic except the stems.
Can I grow rhubarb from seed? Burpee does not offer seed but yes, rhubarb can be grown from seed. It will take several years before you will be able to harvest stalks.
Can I grow rhubarb in containers? We do not recommend growing rhubarb in containers. The large plants tend to be heavy feeders and not to thrive in containers.