I must admit I have a rebellious gardening streak that makes an appearance every once in a while. You know – rebellious as in bucking good ol’ fashioned gardening advice because, well, just because. I was a bit sassy with my rhubarb this year. I let it flower. You read that right. I let it flower. I feel a lecture coming on. (sigh)
Yes, I do know that I compromised my rhubarb harvest by diverting energy into producing flowers and seed rather than actual edible stalks. But, hey, I enjoyed a splendid show of flowers and now have a rhubarb seed collection for planting more rhubarb next year! So, if you’re feeling rebellious, read on to learn more about how to collect rhubarb seeds and when to harvest seeds from rhubarb!
How to Collect Rhubarb Seeds
You could always obtain rhubarb plant seeds from your local seed supplier, but saving rhubarb seedpods from your garden is much more gratifying. However, you may or may not have the opportunity to harvest your own seeds because your rhubarb may not flower in any given year. The probability of flowering, or bolting in rhubarb, increases with certain varieties, the age of the plant and the presence of certain environmental conditions and stressors such as heat and drought. Keep a close watch on the base of your rhubarb plant for the formation of tightly packed flower pods which, if left to fruition, will emerge into long stalks with unfurled flowers at the top. These flower pods can form at any point during the rhubarb growing season and can appear even in the early spring.
Rhubarb can be grown as a strictly ornamental plant and, after setting your eyes on the flower display, it’s easy to see why. You may at this point be tempted to cut the flower stalks prematurely and incorporate them into a flower bouquet, however, you will miss your opportunity for rhubarb seed collection.
Patience is a virtue here, as you will need to wait for a transformation to take place after the rhubarb has flowered before you harvest your rhubarb plant seeds. The flowers will turn into green seed and then eventually these seeds and the entire rhubarb branch (as a whole) will dry out and turn brown. This is when to harvest seeds from rhubarb.
Saving rhubarb seedpods is easy. Clip the stalks with snips or break the brittle branches off by hand. Hover the branches over a cookie sheet and run your fingers down the stalk, brushing the seeds onto the cookie sheet. Dry the seeds on the cookie sheet for a week or two, then package them up and put in a dark, cool place for storage.
It has been said that the shelf life of harvested rhubarb plant seeds does not extend past the second year, so this is something to keep in mind when planning your garden.