How to Grow Humulus – Hops

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Hops—Humulus—are grown in gardens for their bold, large-lobed leaves and the decorative flowers (hops) borne on female plants in autumn.

Hop vines are rapid growers. Their bright green leaves can cover a trellis or arbor in one season enlivening a garden. Each plant bears either male or female flowers. Female flowers are pale green and cone-like; male flowers are small and yellow in clusters.

There are two species in the Humulus genus. One species, Humulus japonica, is commonly grown as an annual and has a variegated cultivar that bears interesting mottled leaves.

Humulus lupulus foliage is quick growing and dense

Get to know Humulus

  • Plant type: Perennial vine
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 4 to 8
  • Hardiness: Half hardy; can be damaged by frost
  • Height and width: 10-20 feet (3-6m) tall
  • Foliage: Deeply lobed, palmate leaves
  • Flowers: A plant will bear male or female flowers; female plants bear pale green, cone-like, flowers that are small and appear in clusters; male plants bear yellow flowers
  • Bloom time: Mid to late summer
  • Uses: Screening, cover arbor or pergola
  • Common name: Hops
  • Botanical name: Humulus
  • Family name: Cannabaceae

Where to plant Humulus

  • Plant hops in full sun or partial shade.
  • lant hops in humus-rich, well-drained soil.
  • Give hops a sturdy trellis upon which to climb.
  • Hops prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0.

When to plant Humulus

  • Sow seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • After sowing seed in pots, place the pots in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks before moving them to a warm spot (70°-75°F/21°-24°C) for germination.
  • Sow seed directly in the garden 2 weeks before the last frost in spring, or in autumn for germination the following spring.
Common hop, Humulus lupulus
Common hop, Humulus lupulus

Planting and spacing Humulus

  • Space hops 8 to 10 feet (2.4-3m) apart.

How to water and feed Humulus

  • Water hops to keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Fertilize hops with an all-purpose fertilizer at planting time or in early spring.

Humulus care

  • Hops self-sow and can become weedy; pull up unwanted seedlings as they appear.

Humulus pests and diseases

  • Hops are usually trouble free but are susceptible to downy mildew, powdery mildew, and anthracnose.
Japanese hops with mottled leaves
Humulus japonica ‘Variegatus’ has sometimes mottled leaves

Humulus propagation

  • Propagate hop by greenwood cuttings in early summer.

Humulus varieties to grow

  • Humulus lupulus, common hop: Perennial; grows to 20 feet (6m); female plants have aromatic bracts that hide pale green dropping cone-like flower clusters to nearly one inch long; males bear tiny yellow flowers in clusters up to 4 inches (10cm) long; cultivar ‘Aureus’ has golden leaves—it needs full sun to color well.
  • H. japonicus ‘Variegatus’: Perennial usually grown as an annual; grows to 10 feet (3m); ovoid spikes of green female flowers from mid to late summer; leaves are green streaked with white.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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