Growing Hops

The Hop

Whether you are growing them for brewing, for medicinal uses, or just for their ornamental beauty, hops make adaptable and hardy vines.

The hop (Humulus lupulus)  is a climbing, herbaceous perennial that grows best on a support system –   a trellis, large arbor, or archway. Unlike most vines, hops die all the way to the ground in late fall, renewing growth next year from the underground storage organs (rhizomes) like a perennial flower bulb. The attractive cones are full of a resinous substance called lupulin, a mixture of compounds that give hops their characteristic fragrance and flavor.

When selecting a variety of hop, consider what you want to use it for. There are ornamental varieties bred for attractive foliage and may produce cones. Others are more bittering with higher levels of acids or more aromatic with lower bittering acids and higher profiles of essential oil that give flavor to beer.

Growing Hops

Plant hop plants in well-draining, sandy to loamy-silt soil. Hops need ample amounts of sunlight, at least 6 hours per day. Space plants at least 24 to 36 inches apart, digging a planting hole that is about twice the width of the container and to the same depth that plant is already sitting at. A single plant has the potential to grow 20 feet of vines, and to produce a couple of pounds of fresh cones, so don’t plant more than you will use and enjoy.  Hops are separate sexed male and female plants, and only the females will produce cones; named varieties are usually female.  Males will increase cone set, but will cause them to have seeds, which is not desirable for brewing.

Create a climbing support, such as a pole or trellis that is at least 14 to 15 feet tall.  They will climb strong twine on their own, but will need training onto wire or pole supports – or to make them grow horizontal instead of up.

Consistent moisture is essential for hop growth, but they can rot if soil becomes waterlogged in the winter.  For the first year, young hops need frequent watering – water a little bit every day or every other day – enough to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet.  Mature hops still need consistent water, but not as frequently.  Give each hop plant 2-3 gallons of water once every 2-3 days – a bit more or more frequently during real hot spells.  Try to avoid getting foliage wet while watering to minimize mildew.  Mulching is an excellent way to reduce water loss and prevent weeds around hop plants.

Fertilize your hops during spring and early summer; apply an all-purpose granular fertilizer with a slow release profile in April, in May, and in June.

Harvest times are often between mid-August and mid-September. To determine maturity of cones, assess cones from top of canopy for dry, papery feel and the golden yellow appearance of the lupulin inside of the cone and the “hoppy” aroma. Remove mature cones from plant and dry in shady location with good air circulation.  Drying can be hastened by using a food dryer – but temperature must be below 140 degrees.

Hops will die down completely late in the fall.  Cut and dispose of all vines at ground level.

Some popular varieties that we carry are:

Newport – bittering variety, good disease resistance

Cascade – common aroma hop variety, easy to grow, great pick for Oregon gardeners from central to western Oregon.

Willamette – aroma hop variety, good disease resistance

Nugget – great bittering qualities, good disease resistance

Centennial – high oil content and great aromatic qualities for brewing