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Why Is My Rhubarb So Small? (7 possibilities & solutions)

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If you are a rhubarb enthusiast, your summers are incomplete without the home-baked pies and jams. Their stems come packed with sweet and tart flavors and make for a great ingredient in these goodies.

Suppose you are hosting a housewarming party to show off your baking skills. Your secret weapon is the Rhubarb’s stalk, but you fall short on it! In these circumstances, one cannot help but ask, why Is My Rhubarb So Small?

Maybe it is a one-time thing! However, the leaves seem to be thriving and growing, but they are of no use because the leaves are filled with poison. No worries, as we will be exploring the primary factors of your Rhubarb being small and spindly.

Why Is My Rhubarb So Small 1
via Hippox

Why Is My Rhubarb So Small?

You certainly do not want to keep asking that question forever. Rhubarbs can be tricky plants, and even experts sometimes mess up. It is incredibly frustrating to see your Rhubarb’s leaves healthy and green while the stalks struggle to grow another centimeter.

The answer to Why Is My Rhubarb So Small Is not an easy one. Still, you can make the puzzle less complex for yourself by considering the following possibilities.

Young Plants

Often Rhubarb enthusiasts forget that it may take a while before your little sapling can achieve its full potential. A Rhubarb plant will take about two years to establish itself in the new environment. Do not worry, as the plant will produce spindly and out-of-shape stalks.

It can be hard not to ask yourself why is my Rhubarb so small during the first two years, especially if you come across another enthusiast with a thriving Rhubarb garden!

This time may be challenging, but it will allow your plant to develop a functional and robust root system. The development in the first two years will aid significantly in future growth.

Rhubarb at 2 months
Rhubarb at 2 months – via Flickr

The Rhubarb Is Too Large

Your plant needs occasional trimming to ensure that it is not being a burden on itself. One of the primary reasons a Rhubarb plant suffers from thin and spindly stalks is that they are too large and mature. This may seem against the question, Why Is My Rhubarb So Small. However, it can be an excellent productive measure in the long run!

The rule of thumb would be to divide your overgrown Rhubarb plant every six years. This allows for better management, spacing, and distribution of nutrients amongst the plants.

Pro tip: Do the transition in early spring or fall and make sure that the plant is attached to a healthy number of roots to counter the transplant shock.


Overcrowding is the go-to answer for why is my Rhubarb so small. Spring is the prime time for the emergence of new shoots from the crown. This can result in thinning of the stalks and, eventually, the plants dying.

Make sure that your Rhubarb plants are being divided occasionally. Keep them well-watered during the transition period.


Flowers look pretty, but they are no less than an enemy for your Rhubarb plants. Nutrients and energy are directed toward the production of the flower. Since most of the work is being done by the plant to keep the flowers growing, it can result in your stalks getting thinner.

Be on the lookout for flowering buds. Make sure to remove them as soon as they are spotted. The longer they continue to bud on the plant, the more damage it will cause. Increasing temperatures, low rainfall, and poor soil may become contributing factors. Ensure that the rhubarb plants are getting a water supply and nutrients

Rhubarb Flower Why Is My Rhubarb So Small
Rhubarb Flower – via Wikimedia

Poor Soil and Lack of Nutrients

Poor soil and lack of nutrients can result in the thinning of stalks. If you believe that your Rhubarb plant is not too mature and there is no overcrowding, then look at the fertilizers you are feeding the plants.

Does it come packed with nitrogen and potassium? Nitrogen can significantly promote stem and leaf growth, and potassium allows the Rhubarb plant to grow stronger stems!

Typically, all-purpose fertilizer will do the job for you. Still, you should ensure that it includes your plant’s vital nutrients for its growth.

Miracle-Gro 3002010 Shake 'N Feed All Purpose Continuous Release Plant, 8 lb, Brown/A
  • Full of essential nutrients that help feed and nourish above and below the soil
  • Contains vital micronutrients to grow stronger, vibrant and more productive plants versus unfed plants
  • Contains natural ingredients that help feed and nourish above and below the soil; Feeds up to 3 months
  • Guaranteed not to burn when used as directed
  • For use in ground and in containers

Pro tip: Rhubarb plants make the most use of fertilizers in their early growth stages. The ideal time to fertilize would be in early spring. While you are doing so, ensure that you do not put any fertilizer on the plant’s crown.


Maybe the answer to your question of why is my Rhubarb so small is not any of the above solutions. Rhubarb plants come in an array of varieties. Some produce thicker and stronger stalks, while others have tender and shorter stalks.


It is pretty easy to stress a Rhubarb plant. Especially if you are always on the run to harvest its stalks, you must gather and store the plant during the spring months. It is the ideal timeframe to harvest the plant since it is young and tender.

Doing the same process throughout the season slows and even halts the plant’s development during the growing season. This will eventually lead to the shortening and thinning of the stalks.

Choose a few of the healthier and stronger Rhubarb plants to harvest throughout the year. That way, you can access fresh stalks without compromising the health and strength of all of your plants.


It is quite probable that there might be several factors affecting the length and strength of the Rhubarb plant’s stem.

However, it is essential to consider that a longer stem does not always equate to a better one. Canada Red is a variety of Rhubarb plants. It often produces a quite tender stalk but is more flavorful than other varieties.

Hopefully, by considering the solutions above, you have the answer to your question about why is my Rhubarb so small. Now you are fully equipped to grow healthier and more flavorful stalks. Next year, everyone will be coming to you for home-baked goodies!