In the Gardren: What to do when your rhubarb flowers

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) It's rhubarb season, and most people think of pies, and crisp, but have you ever thought of rhubarb as an ornamental? Charlie Nardozzi shows us the glory of rhubarb flowers.

Sharon Meyer: Rhubarb pie, rhubarb crisp, Rhubarb bread.

Charlie Nardozzi: Rhubarb compote --Yum! And it's been a great rhubarb season with the cool weather and all of the rain we've had. But if your rhubarb is starting to look like this, you might be wondering what to do. And it's flowering, and there's nothing really wrong with it.

Sharon Meyer: In fact, I kind of think it looks beautiful.

Charlie Nardozzi: They are pretty, but does that mean they've kind of gone by? And you shouldn't eat it anymore? Well, what's happening is, that it's putting more energy into flower and seed production so the stems or sticks as they call them, get narrower so they won't get as big. But you can certainly still eat them right into the summer. There's no problem at all with that. Now if you don't want to have your rhubarb flowering because you want those big fat ones, you can just keep pruning these off. And you just cut them at the base, and you just prune them off as they form and that way they'll send more energy into forming more leaves. Now when you are harvesting your rhubarb, of course you just want to yank it right out, and you also want to harvest it so that you have the big leaves, which you can't eat by the way.

Sharon Meyer: Those are poisonous.

Charlie Nardozzi: Those are poisonous, right. But you can use the leaves as mulch and just kind of place those around your garden and it keeps the weeds away. Now the other thing you can do if you want to prevent them from flowering is to divide the plants. And you do that late winter, because that's usually why they start flowering is they're overcrowded. So every three of four years, divide them into smaller plants and you'll see they won't flower as much and you can give them away to your friends who also like rhubarb.

Sharon Meyer: Or you can just have more rhubarb pies.

Charlie Nardozzi: Well that's true too.