Is the Problem Rhubarb Crown Rot?

... the rhubarb leaves are wilting, shrivelling and the edges and turning yellow ...


 ... Hello Rhubarb-Central!  We're a Community Garden in ... and we're having problems with our rhubarb plants. 

Having looked at your website (excellent, by the way!) we think we may have crown rot. However, we're not sure.

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We've tested the soil pH which is between 6 and 6.5 so that's no problem. The roots seem to be OK.

The rhubarb leaves are wilting, shrivelling at the edges,  and turning yellow when quite young. 

We've taken some photographs of one of the plants, which may or may not help you.

Rhubarb Problem Rhubarb Crown RotWhy are the rhubarb leaves shrivelling?

Rhubarb Leaves are ShrivellingWilting Rhubarb Leaves


 ... First of all, thank you for visiting my website, and for your kind words.

Are the plants receiving enough water if the weather conditions are dry? Or, are they receiving too much water?

I am sure you have already reviewed this page, but in case you haven't, here are tips for caring for rhubarb:

It is also possible that the soil in which the rhubarb plants are planted is not rich enough in iron.

Plants with iron deficiency will turn yellow and wilt...often noticed by yellowing between the veins in the leaves.

What I would do is to treat a few plants with "IRON CHELATE 7%" (available at Garden Centres) and apply as directed with a watering can to the soil around the plant (not to the plants themselves).

You should see a change within several days.

If this corrects the problem and the plants begin to thrive, you know that that is the issue.

Alkaline soil conditions, poor soil aeration or overwatering can cause iron deficiency symptoms.

Rhubarb Crown RotRhubarb Crown Rot - notice the stems separating from the crown.

Rhubarb Leaves Turning Yellow and WiltingRhubarb Leaves Turning Yellow and Wilting


 ... Thanks so much for your prompt reply.  As far as your suggestions are concerned, here is our response:

We think the plants are receiving enough water when the weather's dry, as we water every day, so maybe too much water.  It's hard to know.

Sydney soil is quite loamy, which is a challenge in itself.   However, we dig in friable soil to try and loosen it up a bit.

Good point about lack of iron in the soil.  The rhubarb is planted in a corner of one of the gardens which had ground cover growing in it before. We didn't really prepare the soil for nutrient-hungry plants like rhubarb, although we did subsequently use manure and a  liquid seaweed-based  fertiliser (high in nitrogen).  The leaves don't appear to be yellow between the veins, mainly around the edges.

We'll certain get some Iron Chelate7%  and see if that works.

I've attached images of the rhubarb, including a close-up of the crown to see if it gives you any hints.  As mentioned in my earlier email, the roots appear to be OK.  If it's crown rot or a fungus, would it spread down to the roots?

Looking forward to your response, and thank you again for your very helpful comments.


... Thanks for the pictures!

You know when I saw the pictures I thought - fungus / crown rot. I don't think the iron deficiency is the issue.

When the rhubarb soil is very dry then I would water a "deep watering" a few times a week rather than watering a lighter watering every day. It is okay for the rhubarb to dry out between watering. Also be sure to water in the morning as opposed to the evening so that the plant can dry again during the day to prevent fungus growth - this watering early in the morning is a good idea for all garden plants - and as much as possible try to water the soil AROUND the plant as opposed to the plant leaves themselves.

I noticed straw around the plants in the picture. I would avoid having straw or any other decaying matter around the plants as the rotting material(straw) may spread fungus to the rhubarb stems or root/crown.

Check out this page here (you may already have done so):

If you decide it is a fungus/crown rot, I would remove all the good and diseased stalks from the affected rhubarb plants and allow the plant to start afresh, and do not over water. I bet the plant will recover.

Don't give up though...once it picks up you will be glad you persisted because the harvest is always bountiful with rhubarb!


 ... Yes, the conclusion we came to was crown rot.   I think the problem has been overwatering, and as it's a community garden, everyone has set days on which to water, so it's a bit hard to keep tabs on who's done what.

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We do water in the morning, and we do water around the plant, though maybe not far enough away from the crown.  I'll mention it again, just to make sure.  The mulch you saw around the plant was a bit misleading.  We dug up a couple of the plants and I put one of them on top of some mulch to take the shots. Of course, with mulching, we never mulch close to any plant.

No, we're certainly not giving up!   We've had success with rhubarb before, so we'll stick with it, and yes, there's nothing like fresh rhubarb.  I stir sliced strawberries through cooked cold rhubarb sometimes.  It really enhances the flavour.

Thanks once again for all your help.  Much appreciated.

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