Hops Planting Guide

Beer brewers, you know you want to grow your own hops. Here’s your chance. Chinook, Crystal and Cascade are some of the most popular varieties and these hops are winter hardy to zone 5. Fragrant, flavorful, pretty and sturdy – this trio offers it all. Oh, yes, and organically grown outside of Boulder, Colorado.

Plant this spring and soon you’ll be saying "Ah, yes, I brewed this Russian River Blind Pig IPA . . . from hops I grew out back.” Pride swell.

Planting Information

Choosing a Site

Hops prefer full sun locations. They will grow in partial shade but won’t produce as well and the plants won’t be as robust. These perennial plants grow very tall over time so plan accordingly. It’s not uncommon for hops vines to mature to 20-25 feet, growing up or sideways. They will need a trellis, open design fence, pergola or similar structure. If you are growing several types, place them in separate areas so they don’t grow together over time, making it hard to determine which cones are attached to which vines.

Soil Prep

Hops appreciate rich, well-aerated soil with good drainage. Dig a foot deep, add some balanced fertilizer and turn in.

When to Plant Hops

Plant outdoors in spring when frost danger has past and soil has warmed a bit. These plants are winter hardy once established but during their first spring plant after danger of frost has past.

How to Plant Hops Rhizomes

Place the rhizomes, or root cuttings, 4” deep with the root fibers facing downwards. Cover with soil. Pat to eliminate any air pockets and water well to settle the soil around the rhizomes. Sprouts will appear in 2 – 4 weeks depending on soil temperature.

During the Season

Hops plants grow quickly and need more than average amounts of water. In dry climates, during the heat of summer and with very well drained soil, the plants may require daily irrigation, especially while they settle in.

At the Season’s End

Harvest your hops in late summer when the cones are dry to the touch, springy, exude a very strong hops odor and leave some yellow lupulin powder on your probing fingers. Check daily and confirm ripeness by picking a test cone. Pull open; it should be filled with thick lupulin powder if it is ripe. Cones that receive more sunlight may ripen a few days before those that are partly shaded by foliage. Dry cones in a paper bag for a week or ten days. Store in the freezer in a plastic bag that has had the air squeezed out to prevent oxidation.

Insider Tips

  1. Hops can be poisonous to dogs. Do not plant where your dog might ingest.
  2. Hops plants grow very tall, over 20 feet. For landscape where space is limited, that growth can be directed sideways to cover a chainlink fence or other less-than-beautiful structure.
  3. Cut back to hops foliage to 3 feet before the first frost and in spring trim off all dead foliage.
  4. When you trim your hops at the end of the season, repurpose the cut stems. Twist into simple circles. These make pretty wreaths and lush frames around centerpieces on large dining tables. Cut hops start out bright green and age to a lovely autumnal gold.
  5. Root prune your plants to contain them. Each spring, dig a 15" circle, 12" deep into the soil around each plant. This helps to keep the plants confined and their energy focused on top growth.
shop hops
shop hops

Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun

Soil: Fertile and well drained

Depth: Plant 4" deep

Water: Generous moisture

Uses: Beer brewing and covering trellises

Tip: Choose a planting location thoughtfully; hops grow huge

GUIDE: Hops Planting Guide

They Start Out looking Like This: