Chinese rhubarb Rheum palmatum 'Hadspen Crimson'

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
rhubarb 'Hadspen Crimson'


Hadspen Crimson, a visually striking variety of rhubarb, is primarily grown for its ornamental appeal rather than its culinary use. The plant boasts large, lush leaves that are deeply lobed and exhibit a dramatic color transition. During the early stages of growth in spring, the leaves emerge in a vibrant red shade, which further matures into a deep, rich crimson as they expand. This creates a bold and vivid foliage display, adding a splash of color to any garden. The boldness of the Hadspen Crimson’s leaves is augmented by their texture. The leaves are somewhat coarse, providing a strong visual contrast to finer-textured plants in the garden. The color of the stems complements the foliage, often sharing the same deep crimson hue, which enhances the color continuity of the plant. The vividness of the plant may vary depending on the amount of sunlight it receives, with more intense coloration occurring with greater light exposure. Throughout the season, the appearance of Hadspen Crimson rhubarb may change as it produces flower spikes. The flowers, while not as ornamental as the foliage, add an additional element of height and texture to the plant. However, many gardeners choose to remove the flower spikes to focus the plant's energy on maintaining its spectacular leaves. The overall impression of the Hadspen Crimson rhubarb is that of an architectural plant, with its large, richly colored leaves creating a striking and exotic effect. Its deep, saturated tones provide excellent contrast and can be used effectively to accentuate and complement a variety of garden designs.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Turkish Rhubarb, Ornamental Rhubarb, Chinese Rhubarb, East Indian Rhubarb, Ornamental Dock

    • Common names

      Rheum palmatum var. tanguticum, Rheum tanguticum.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      The common name for Rheum palmatum 'Hadspen Crimson' is Chinese rhubarb. This plant can be toxic to humans if the wrong parts are consumed. The leaves of Chinese rhubarb contain oxalic acid and anthraquinone glycosides, which can lead to poisoning. Symptoms of poisoning may include burning in the mouth and throat, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In severe cases, kidney problems, convulsions, coma, and even death may occur due to oxalate crystals affecting renal function and other organ systems.

    • To pets

      Chinese rhubarb is also toxic to pets. The leaves contain oxalic acid and anthraquinone glycosides that can cause similar symptoms to those in humans. If a pet ingests the leaves of Chinese rhubarb, they might experience signs of poisoning such as drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, it can cause tremors, kidney failure, and potentially be life-threatening if enough of the plant is ingested. Pet owners should keep their animals away from this plant to avoid accidental ingestion.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      3-6 feet (0.9-1.8 meters)

    • Spread

      3-4 feet (0.9-1.2 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Value: Rheum palmatum 'Hadspen Crimson', commonly known as Chinese rhubarb, has large, deeply colored leaves and striking red stems that add dramatic impact to garden borders or as a focal plant.
    • Seasonal Interest: It offers year-round visual interest with its changing leaf colors throughout the seasons—from red-tinted leaves in spring to deep maroon or crimson in fall.
    • Durability: Chinese rhubarb is a hardy perennial capable of withstanding cold temperatures, making it suitable for a variety of climates.
    • Ease of Care: This plant is relatively easy to maintain, requiring minimal care once established, making it ideal for both novice and experienced gardeners.
    • Pollinator Attraction: It produces flowers that attract beneficial insects, such as bees, which are necessary for the pollination of many plants.
    • Architectural Structure: With its large leaves and striking appearance, Chinese rhubarb provides an excellent architectural structure to garden designs.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Laxative: Containing compounds such as anthraquinones, Rheum palmatum is traditionally known to stimulate bowel movements.
    • Astringent: The roots of the plant are used for their astringent properties, which can help in tightening tissues and reducing secretions.
    • Anti-inflammatory: It's believed to have properties that reduce inflammation, though clinical evidence for this use is limited.
    • Bacterial Infections: The plant has been used in traditional medicine to fight bacterial infections, due to suspected antimicrobial properties.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Red-veined Sorrel can be used as a natural dye for textiles, imparting a subtle yellow-green color to fabrics when the roots are used in the dyeing process.
    • In the culinary arts, young Rheum palmatum leaves can be candied for decorative dessert garnishes, although caution is advised due to the presence of oxalic acid in the leaves.
    • Garden designers may utilize Rheum palmatum for its sculptural qualities, featuring the large, dramatic leaves and tall flower spikes in contemporary garden design.
    • The dried form of Red-veined Sorrel can be used in flower arrangements or as part of a dried bouquet, giving an unusual texture and visual interest.
    • Photographers and artists may choose Rheum palmatum as a subject due to its striking appearance, with leaves that often have a deep, crimson color and a distinctive shape.
    • As a companion plant in the vegetable garden, Red-veined Sorrel can serve as a decoy for pests, distracting them from more sensitive crops.
    • In educational settings, Red-veined Sorrel can be used to teach students about the variability in leaf morphology and plant pigmentation in the plant kingdom.
    • With its bold foliage, Rheum palmatum can be used as a backdrop or accent in theatrical or film sets to create an atmosphere or provide a natural screen.
    • Crafters may use the stalks and fibers from Rheum palmatum to create eco-friendly paper or as a component in homemade paper making projects.
    • Red-veined Sorrel can be planted as a protective barrier or living fence, utilizing its large leaves and robust growth habit to provide privacy or delineate garden spaces.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Chinese rhubarb is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    Chinese rhubarb is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Medicinal Healing: Commonly known as Chinese rhubarb, Rheum palmatum 'Hadspen Crimson' is often associated with healing due to its traditional use in medicine for its purgative properties.
    • Protection: The robust nature of the plant signifies protection and the ability to ward off negativity.
    • Vitality: The vibrant red color of its leaves symbolizes energy and vitality, suggesting a sense of liveliness and dynamism.
    • Transformation: The plant's capacity for changing from green to deep crimson as it matures represents transformation and change.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Early Spring
As needed
  • water dropWater

    Chinese rhubarb or ornamental rhubarb should be watered deeply, ensuring that water reaches the root zone, about once a week during the growing season. The soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged. In the absence of rainfall, a total of about 1-2 gallons per week is suitable for an established plant. During hot, dry periods, increase the frequency to twice per week. Cut back on water as the plant goes dormant in the fall.

  • sunLight

    Ornamental rhubarb thrives best in full sun to partial shade. A spot that receives at least four to six hours of direct sunlight is ideal, and some afternoon shade can be beneficial in areas with very hot summers. Avoid deep shade, as this can reduce the vigor of the plant and the intensity of the foliage color.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Ornamental rhubarb prefers a temperature range between 40°F and 75°F for optimal growth. It can tolerate temperatures down to 20°F once established but should be protected from harsh, chilling winds. The ideal growing conditions for ornamental rhubarb are cool to temperate climates.

  • scissorsPruning

    Prune ornamental rhubarb in late autumn or early spring to remove any dead or damaged leaves and stalks. Trimming encourages healthy growth and improves air circulation. The best time for pruning is when the plant is dormant, and annual pruning is sufficient.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Chinese rhubarb (Rheum palmatum 'Hadspen Crimson') thrives best in a soil mix that is rich, organic, and well-draining, with a pH range of 6.0 to 6.8. A good mixture can be created using equal parts of garden soil, compost, and perlite or sand to ensure proper drainage and fertility.

  • plantRepotting

    Chinese rhubarb does not generally require frequent repotting as it is a large, perennial plant. Repotting can be done every 3-5 years or when the plant outgrows its container, ensuring minimal disturbance to its root system.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Chinese rhubarb prefers a moderate humidity level but is quite adaptable to different atmospheric conditions. It can thrive in normal outdoor humidity levels and does not require specific adjustments for optimal growth.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Use well-draining soil, in a bright spot, and water sparingly.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in rich soil, partial sun, water well, protect in winter.

    • Hardiness zone

      5-8 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Rheum palmatum 'Hadspen Crimson', commonly known as Chinese rhubarb or ornamental rhubarb, begins its life cycle when seeds germinate in early spring, given moist soil and cool temperatures. As seedlings establish, they develop large, deeply-cut, reddish-purple leaves that provide ornamental interest throughout the growing season. In the second or third year, once mature enough, the plant sends up tall flower stalks bearing small white or red flowers from late spring to early summer. After pollination, flowers give way to fruit capsules that contain winged seeds which disperse when mature, completing the reproductive phase. Throughout the growing season, the plant's large taproot stores energy for the next year's growth. With the onset of winter, the above-ground foliage dies back, and the plant enters a period of dormancy until the return of favorable growth conditions in the spring.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Early Spring

    • Propogation: Rheum palmatum 'Hadspen Crimson', commonly known as Chinese rhubarb, is often propagated through division, a process best performed in early spring before the plant breaks dormancy. To propagate by division, the gardener should gently lift the plant from the soil and then use a sharp spade or knife to cut through the crown, ensuring each division has at least one growing point or bud. Divisions should be replanted promptly at the same soil depth as before and watered thoroughly. This method of propagation allows for the rapid increase of stock and the creation of true-to-type plants, maintaining the distinctive qualities of the 'Hadspen Crimson' variety. It is essential to provide the divisions with good soil preparation and aftercare to ensure successful establishment.