Rhubarb Under Apple Trees: What To Know Before Planting

A tranquil garden with thriving apple trees providing a cool and refreshing shade, allowing delectable rhubarb to thrive.

This image of cohabitation paints a beautiful landscape, but could it really become a reality?

Yes, you can plant rhubarb under apple trees. Rhubarb requires plenty of sunlight, well-drained soil, and sufficient space to grow. Apple trees provide dappled sunlight that rhubarb plants can thrive under, but ensure that the rhubarb is not overly shaded or competing with the apple trees for nutrients.

In the following sections, we’ll explain the concept of growing rhubarb under apple trees in more detail. So, if you’re ready to transform your garden into a multi-layered haven of productivity, keep reading!

Key Takeaways

  • Rhubarb can be successfully grown under apple trees as long as you provide sufficient sunlight, well-drained soil, and appropriate spacing.
  • Care and maintenance of rhubarb under apple trees involve regular watering, feeding, mulching, and monitoring for diseases.
  • Potential challenges include light competition from the apple tree and the risk of disease transmission.
  • Rhubarb is a perennial plant and, with proper care, will come back and produce a harvest every year.

Full of questions about growing and caring for apple trees? You’re certainly not alone. You’ll find the answers you need and much more in my comprehensive guide, Common Apple Tree Questions. It’s a must-read!

Growing Rhubarb Under Apple Trees

Growing rhubarb under apple trees can be a rewarding endeavor, offering multiple benefits. However, it requires careful planning and consideration. Let’s explore this in more detail:

Compatibility of Rhubarb and Apple Trees

Apple trees, with their tall, spreading canopies, can provide the moderate shade that rhubarb plants can tolerate, especially in hotter climates where direct sunlight can be intense.

The deep roots of apple trees and the shallow roots of rhubarb mean they’re less likely to compete for nutrients and water.

Moreover, this arrangement can offer several benefits. For one, it allows for efficient use of garden space, providing two crops in the same area.

It can also contribute to a healthier garden ecosystem as the diversity of plants can attract beneficial insects and deter pests.

Selecting Suitable Rhubarb Varieties

When planting rhubarb under apple trees, it’s important to select suitable rhubarb varieties. Some varieties are more shade-tolerant than others.

‘Victoria’, a popular heirloom variety, is known for its robustness and can tolerate a range of conditions. ‘Canada Red’ and ‘Crimson Red’ are other varieties that are known for their hardiness.

Site Selection and Preparation

Choosing the right site is crucial for the success of your rhubarb plants. Rhubarb needs a sunny spot, but it can tolerate some shade.

The area under an apple tree can provide this balance. However, avoid areas where the rhubarb will be in deep shade all day.

The soil should be quick to drain as rhubarb doesn’t do well in waterlogged conditions.

Prior to planting, enrich the soil with plenty of organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or compost, to provide the nutrients your rhubarb plants will need to thrive.

Planting Techniques and Spacing Considerations

When planting rhubarb under apple trees, consider the space each plant will need. Rhubarb plants can grow quite large, and their large leaves can potentially compete with the apple tree for sunlight.

Therefore, plant the rhubarb around the drip line of the tree where it will receive enough sunlight but won’t interfere with the tree’s growth.

When planting, dig a hole wide and deep enough to accommodate the rhubarb crown. Place the crown in the hole with the top bud about 2 inches below the surface of the soil.

Backfill the hole, and firm the soil gently around the crown. Water thoroughly after planting.

A close look at the stalks of rhubarb plants growing in a garden.

Care and Maintenance of Rhubarb Under an Apple Tree

Once your rhubarb plants are established under your apple tree, they will require some ongoing care and maintenance to ensure they thrive:


Rhubarb plants need consistent watering, especially during dry periods. However, avoid overwatering as this can lead to root rot. The soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged.


Rhubarb is a heavy feeder and will benefit from regular feeding. Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer in early spring to promote vigorous growth. I use this one and always see great results.

Additionally, a layer of well-rotted manure or compost can be added around the plants in the fall to provide nutrients and improve soil structure.


Mulching around the rhubarb plants can help retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and add organic matter to the soil. Use organic mulches like straw, compost, or well-rotted manure.

Potential Challenges and Considerations

Growing rhubarb under apple trees can present some challenges:

Light Competition

While rhubarb can tolerate some shade, it may struggle if the apple tree’s canopy becomes too dense. Regular pruning of the apple tree can help ensure the rhubarb plants receive sufficient light.

Disease Transmission

Both apple trees and rhubarb plants can be susceptible to certain diseases. Care should be taken to monitor for signs of disease and manage any issues promptly to prevent spread.

Other Plants That Pair Well With Apple Trees

In addition to rhubarb, there are several other plants that can be grown successfully under apple trees. These include:

  • Lemon balm
  • Alliums
  • Mint
  • Comfry
  • Mums
  • Chamomile
  • Nasturtiums
  • Lavender
  • Sea Buckthorn
  • Wormwood
  • Marigolds
  • Cilantro

Rhubarb Growing Tips

For a successful rhubarb crop, remember these key tips:

  • Choose a variety suited to your climate.
  • Ensure the plants receive enough sunlight.
  • Keep the soil enriched with organic matter.
  • Provide regular watering and feeding.

Related Questions:

What Should You Not Plant Near Rhubarb?

Certain plants, like potatoes and sunflowers, are not recommended to plant near rhubarb as they can compete for nutrients or potentially increase the risk of disease.

Will Rhubarb Come Back Every Year?

Yes, rhubarb is a perennial plant and will come back every year. In fact, the plant often becomes more productive after its first few years.

Closing Thoughts

Planting rhubarb under apple trees can be a rewarding endeavor, offering a unique way to maximize your garden space and yield.

With careful planning, suitable variety selection, and appropriate care and maintenance, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of both apples and rhubarb from the same patch of your garden.

Remember, the key to a successful apple tree guild is understanding the needs of your plants and providing the right conditions for them to thrive.

Now that you know about growing rhubarb among your apple trees, learn about espaliering and dwarf apples next: