A Guide to Growing Your Own Hops

A Guide to Growing Your Own Hops

Hops, scientifically known as Humulus lupulus, have been an integral part of brewing beer since the ancient times. As a homebrewer, you might have contemplated the idea of growing your own hops. If you have, then this comprehensive guide will provide you with all the necessary information on when to plant hops, how to care for them, and what to do with your harvest.

Overview of Hops

Hops are a key component in the beer brewing process. They impart flavour, aroma, and bitterness to the beer. Besides their brewing significance, hops are also known for their medicinal properties and are often used in herbal medicines. Hops are perennial plants, which means they grow back year after year. They are climbers and grow vertically often reaching heights of more than 25 feet. The part of the hop plant that is used in brewing is the female flower, known as a cone.

Choosing the Right Variety of Hops

Before you start planting, you need to decide the variety of hops you want to grow. With over 120 varieties available, this can be a daunting task. To make this decision easier, consider the following points:

  1. Climate: Different varieties of hops are suited to different climates. Some varieties thrive in cooler climates, while others prefer warmer regions.
  2. Purpose: What do you plan to use the hops for? If you’re a homebrewer, you might want to choose a variety that you frequently use in your brews.
  3. Taste and Aroma: Different varieties of hops have different flavours and aromas. Some are fruity, some are floral, and others are bitter. Choose a variety that suits your taste preferences.

When to Plant Hops

Knowing when to plant hops is crucial for a successful harvest. Hops should be planted in spring, after the last frost. They need a minimum of 120 frost-free days to flower and produce a good crop.

Where to Plant Hops

Hops require a lot of sunlight and a well-drained soil. They should be planted in a location that gets plenty of sun and has good soil drainage. Hops are also climbers, so they need a strong support system to climb on.

How to Plant Hops

Hops are propagated from root cuttings known as rhizomes. Here are the steps to plant hops:

  1. Prepare the soil: The soil should be loose and well-aerated. Add aged manure or compost to the soil before planting.
  2. Dig a hole: The hole should be about twice as wide as the pot and as deep.
  3. Plant the rhizomes: Place two rhizomes per hill with the buds pointing up and the roots down.
  4. Backfill and water: Place the plant in the hole and backfill. Water deeply at the time of planting.
  5. Cover with mulch: Cover the hills with some straw or light mulch to control weeds.

How to Care for Hops

After planting, hops require regular care and attention to ensure healthy growth.

  1. Watering: In the first year, hop plants may require frequent light watering to help them get established. Mature plants will benefit from regular watering if rainfall is sparse.
  2. Pruning and Training: Once the plant is established, select 2 to 6 bines from each hill and train them up a support. Unused bines can be pruned off or stuck into the soil and allowed to produce rhizomes for new plants.
  3. Fertilisation: Fertilise hop plants when growth begins in spring and two more times at intervals of 4 to 6 weeks.

Harvesting Hops

Hops are usually ready to harvest at the end of the growing season, which is usually late summer. The flower cones are harvested when they start to feel dry and papery. After harvesting, the cones need to be dried before they can be used in brewing.

Storing Hops

For the freshest flavour, store the dried cones in airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags in the freezer or refrigerator until ready to use.

Common Pests and Diseases

Like any other plant, hops are susceptible to pests and diseases. Some common pests that can affect hops include aphids, spider mites, and cutworms. Diseases include downy mildew, verticillium wilt, and viruses.

Propagating Hops

Hops can be easily propagated by taking cuttings from the rhizomes in early spring. These rhizomes should be planted immediately, either in the ground or in pots for transplanting later.


Growing hops can be a rewarding experience, especially if you’re a homebrewer. With the right care and attention, you can have a successful harvest of hops right in your backyard. So go ahead, give it a try and add a personal touch to your brews with your own homegrown hops.