U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hops - A Scary Story

I have love-hate relationships with my hops. My grandmother had them in her garden, my mother had them in her garden, and I wanted to have them in my garden, too. I like that they are vigorous, I like their leaf's shape and I like their strobiles (the female flower cones).

In Russia, those strobiles are believed to be good for hair, bringing strength and shine.
(At the first appearance of baldness, try this treatment to strenthen the hair roots: pick up strobiles in August-September before they fully ripen. Add 1 tablespoon of strobiles into 1 glass of boiling water and continue to boil for 30 min. Cool down. Rub into the head.)

I bought two plants - a green one and a yellow one, Humulus lupulus "Aureus".
Golden Hops (Humulus lupulus Aureus):
Flowers August - September. Full sun. 20 feet long. Hardiness: Zone 5. Care: Prune back as needed. It's most effective when trained on an arbor or pergola. Fertilize with a slow release fertilizer every April.

They grew in the pots and looked good.

In 2 or 3 years their growth slowed down, they didn' look happy and I moved them to the soil.
Everything was OK for some time. They grew fast and made a pretty addition to one of the arches.

The plants were healthy, except for the fall when the top of the plants got brown and hosted some small worms. It didn't bother me much since by that time I was already preparing to cut it for the winter. Peaceful coexistence didn't last long. One spring, I noticed that new shoots of hops appeared from the ground in big numbers and started to overtake the whole bed. See those red stems? It's THEM!

By that time, I remembered my sister had warned me about hops' invasiveness and ability to go deep (up to 3 meters or 9 feet) into the ground and spread extensively. The decision was made and the fight started. I dug out the whole plant, picked up the roots and threw them away. I left only one small part of the plant and moved it on the terrace garden where I have my vegetables and perennials. I planted it on the very edge, remembering its ability to spread.

Well, that was last fall when our friend delivered a pick-up truck load of horse- and chicken-composted manure. He and my husband unloaded the majority of it in the utility area. A smaller part was dumped at the edge of the terrace garden. The guys didn't pay much attention and covered a hops plant with a pile of compost. In the spring, there was a scary picture there: fed by the nutritious compost for several months, the hops appeared from under it like a mythological dragon with multiple heads.

After I moved the compost, it was like this:

I erected a Tee Pee for it and tied its branches to the stakes. But, I'm afraid the damage is already done. I suspect that the mighty roots are already somewhere in the middle of the terrace garden. Soon, dozens of shoots will show up like Chinese terracota soldiers and overtake my vegetble and perennial beds. I don't like the idea of getting rid of it forever. The last news I heard was that researchers found out that this plant has the ability to balance hormones in a human's body. I can ignore its hair shine and strenthening properties, but hormones is a serious matter. So, I have this dilemma. Maybe, it's late already and soon I'll hear the sound of spreading hops in my garden as southerners say they can hear the sound of spreading kudzu ...

Hops is a hardy perennial. The hop produces annual vines from a permanent root stock known as the crown. Vines can grow 25 ft high in a single season but will die to the crown each fall. The crown produces the underground stem or rhizome. The root-like rhizomes sprout numerous buds, which are the key to propagation. Good information can be found here: BeerSmith Home Brewing Beer Blog.

There are several sites about medicinal applications of hops (antispasmodic, soporific, sedative). Hops are primarily used to reduce tension and aid in sleep. As a sleep aid, they can be used in a sachet inside of a pillow. Their aromatic properties will help you to fall asleep. Hops can be taken to help relax the muscles and soothe anxiety. They can also help to relax spasms of the digestive system and aid in digestion.

Interesting fact:
Healthy hop plants can grow up to 1 ft in a day!!!

P.S. Forgot to tell - I dug it out from under that arch last year, but now it is back and climbing happily up, up, up... Healthy and beautiful as before... Obviously, I didn't get out all the roots!


  1. I love how hops look too, and we have some in a container growing on a trellis. I'm glad to have read about their invasiveness, I had no idea. I was going to have my husband plant them in the ground and put up an arbor for them to grow on. Maybe I'll just get a bigger pot.
    Your golden ones really are beautiful, maybe they'll behave for you!

  2. Hops or Triffid?

    A foot a day!

    They were a really important crop years ago in England.


  3. Oh, Tatyana,
    There are plants I'd love to have, like trumpet vine, that I don't, because I don't want to battle the runners. I grow mint and garlic chives in pots. The garlic chives are not allowed to go to seed, and they don't seem to mind.

  4. Too late now but Hops are like Mint and need a restricted root run. Vigorous is a word invented for them.

  5. The hops looks great, maybe you can brew up some beer? (Ha Ha)

  6. I do agree- hops are beautiful but I have seen them eat a building in no time at all. Good luck with yours!

  7. AnonymousMay 26, 2009

    Hops for the head. Humm! From your experience, I would not want it in my garden. I'll admire yours. Did your family raise it because they made there own beer?

  8. A foot in one single day! That's amazing! I've never had this plant. I must check it out.

  9. I love hops..I let them grow all over my garage wall at my old house..
    Thanks for sharing!!

  10. Ditto Rob's comment. English bitter beer is a must try if you visit and they are still grown here commerically, both for the taste and their superior keeping qualities of beer! I would like to grow them, but they are a tad bullish! I fancy making a sleeping pillow from them and of course, they look beautiful brought into the home and swagged around as decoration.

  11. It gives new meaning to the term "mad hops" ;-) I think you may have to make your peace with it. Cheers!

  12. AnonymousMay 27, 2009

    But it's so pretty, Tatyana! I actually found a volunteer hop (at least looks like one) in one of my pots this spring. I was going to stick a trellis in the pot but after reading your post, it's going bye-bye! I already deal with invasions from Joe Pye weeds and goose neck loosestrife! They never completely go away. So now I know the secret of your success, all that good manure by the truck!

  13. Did you know that strobels under the pillow makes you fall asleep faster? Or that the Vikings made beer from hoppers.
    I surely understand your problem. I realized yesterday that my autum raspberries spreads that "good" to. They pop up everywhere! Couldn't you dig down a huge plastic bowl with tiny holes in the bottom, plant the hoppers in the bowl and the'll stay there. I'v done that with Bambu and some grass that also spreads like that. Good luck / gittan

  14. I hope you can continue to contain them enough to keep them 'manageable' will likely be pulling, digging and cutting for years to come...but they do look nice on your arbor. All of their medicinal properties sound wonderful-wonder why that isn't all over the news, as so many of us have some or many of the issues it can help with!!

  15. Before planting invading plant like mint or raspberry- prepare place- you can plant them inside cement block. or put piece of metal sheet around ( how deep for raspberry or hops i think 2 feet deep)I planted mint inside the cement block. looks beautiful and do not bather any another plants.

  16. did you know that the hop is poisonous to dogs who like to eat it


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