Growing Hops:
How to Grow Hops Organically

Growing hops is relatively simple as long as they’re planted in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil, get full sun and have a tall trellis on which to grow.

Assuming you plan to grow hops for beer brewing, be sure to grow the female plant since its cones are the part that’s harvested for that purpose. If you’re a small-time brewer, one plant should be plenty.

Growing Hops: Plant Snapshot (Humulus lupulus)

Growing Hops
  • Family: Cannabaceae (Hemp family)
  • Annual or Perennial? Perennial crown; annual climbing stems
  • Recommended varieties: Fuggle, Williamette, Columbia, Cascade, Galena, Nugget, Mt. Hood, Tettnanger, Centennial, Amarillo
  • Cold tolerance: Half Hardy – Will survive light frosts. Seeds germinate at low soil temperatures and can be planted 2 weeks before the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring.
  • Required Sun: Full sun to partial shade (full sun is preferred)
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: None (Hops tend to crowd out everything else)
    • Avoid: All (Hops tend to crowd out everything else)
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Growing Hops: Planting the Seed

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The most common way to start hops is to purchase and plant an underground stem (also called a ‘rhizome’) from a mature female plant. Store them in a cool, moist and well-ventilated place until you’re ready to plant.

Also pay close attention to the condition of the rhizomes when they arrive…if they appear poorly developed, diseased, moldy or damaged, do NOT plant them.

Like most plants, hops prefer fertile soil. Before planting, till a healthy layer of compost along with a small amount of organic garden fertilizer about one foot (30 cm) down into your soil.

Set up a high trellis or place them against an outdoor wall, fence or flag post for them to grow up. If you choose a wall, hanging a cord or two from the top will most likely be enough for the vines to hold on to. Hop plants can grow up to 30 feet or more so the more room you can give them, the better.

Get your hops rhizomes into the ground as soon as possible after the last hard frost. When planting, place the root cutting horizontally in a 6 inch (15 cm) hole with the sprouts facing up, then loosely cover with a two inch (5 cm) layer of soil.

If you plant more than one rhizome, space them about three to five feet (91 to 152 cm) apart. Three feet is fine for plants of the same variety; Five feet between different varieties to keep the vines from tangling and getting the cones mixed up (thanks to Chris M. for his input on this!).

Apply a healthy layer of organic mulch around the planting spot to help the soil retain moisture and to keep weeds at bay.

Snapshot: Planting Hops

  • Planting depth: about 6 inches
  • Spacing in rows: about 3 to 5 feet (91 to 152 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 70-75.2 degrees F (21-24 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 49 to 56 days
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Growing Hops: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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After you’ve gotten your hops started there’s very little work required until harvest time. Just be sure they get plenty of water, doing your best to avoid getting the vine wet in the process (to prevent disease).

When your vines have grown to about 12 inches (30 cm), cut away all but the three healthiest looking vines and train them clockwise up their support or cord.

Snapshot: Growing Hops

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 6.0 to 7.5
  • Growing soil temperature: 60 to 65 degrees F (15.6 to 18.3 degrees C)
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Growing Hops: Harvesting Time

Hops are usually harvested in August and September, depending on your location and climate . The cones (female hop flowers) are checked for ripeness by the way they look, feel and smell.

They’re ready when the cones are giving off a nice aroma and are just beginning to dry. They should also have changed from bright green to light green or yellowish in color.

To harvest your hops, cut them from the vine with scissors or garden shears one by one as they ripen (using a ladder for the higher-ups) or take them down all at once by cutting the vine at its base, unwinding and pulling it down.

Snapshot: Harvesting Hops

  • Time to harvest: About 13 to 16 weeks
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Storing Hops and Freezing Hops

Hop cones should be dried out immediately after picking. Simply place them on a sheet in a well-ventilated and protected area until they are completely dry.

As soon as they’ve dried, seal them in a vacuum-sealed bag and store them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.

Snapshot: Storing Hops & Freezing Hops

  • Storage temperature: Between -5 and 30 degrees F (-1 and -21 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 70 to 75% relative humidity
  • Storage life (unfrozen): about 2 weeks
  • Storage life (frozen in above conditions): Up to 2 years (at 0 F)
  • Seed longevity: About 2 years
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Growing Hops: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Hops. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.


  • Aphids
  • Mites (Spinach crown mites)


  • Downy mildew
  • Powdery mildew
  • Verticillium wilt
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YOUR Experience & Advice About Growing Hops

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