Most gardeners advise transplanting rhubarb in early to mid spring. This is because the rhubarb plant generally starts its growth cycle in spring, and it is best to transplant before it begins new growth. It is recommended that they be moved to their new location as soon as possible. If the plants begin to dry out, they may not take root when they are replanted. When uprooting the plants, care should be taken to be sure that the spade does not damage the root system, and that the spade penetrates the soil well below the root ball.
When the plants have been removed from their original bed, they should be carefully examined to be sure they are not damaged and are suitable for transplanting. If the root system is supporting more than one plant, the rhubarbs can be divided. This should ideally be done using a sharp knife, though a garden spade may also be used. Before transplanting rhubarb, make sure each plant has buds and a section of the root system.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when transplanting rhubarb is that the plants cannot survive for long without being replanted. If replanting is not immediately possible, the rhubarb should be wrapped in plastic or canvas and placed in an area well away from the sun. A cellar or basement would likely be a good storage area, but if that is not possible, the plants could be stored in a dark cabinet or box. Sunlight can be damaging to the plants while they are in between plantings. Even if extra precautions are taken, the plants could die if they are not replanted within three to five days.
When transplanting rhubarb to a new bed, it is a good idea to make sure the new location receives plenty of sun. Rhubarb planted in shady areas may grow, but generally does not thrive as well as those that receive full sunlight. In addition, rhubarb plants should not be planted in areas where the soil is constantly damp or marshy. Most gardeners recommend thick clay soil supplemented with organic fertilizer to help promote new growth.
Rhubarb buds generally need shallow planting, so they should probably be placed no more than 3 inches (7.6 cm) below the surface of the soil, and should be planted about 30 inches (76 cm) apart. When transplanting rhubarb during very dry weather, the new plants should probably be watered every few days. During periods with normal rainfall, they should be watered when the soil around the plants feels dry to the touch.