Common Hops, Humulus lupulus, is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the Cannabaceae or hemp family. It is a native to Europe and is cultivated in North America as well. The sexes are separate or dioecious with the female plant’s strobili (pictured above) being of economic importance. The male staminate flowers do not have petals. Hops rely on wind-pollination of flowers. The plant is a herbaceous perennial climbing plant which sends up new shoots in early spring and dies back to a cold-hardy rhizome (underground stem) in autumn. You can find leaves with 1, 3, 5, and 7 lobes on the same plant. Plants can produce up to 20 years.
The female cone-shaped fruits from H. lupulus are used by breweries. The fragrant flower cones, known as hops, impart a bitter flavor, and also have aromatic and preservative qualities. Hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages.
Hops plants grow best in the latitude range of 38°-51° (growing zones 5 – 8) in full sun with moderate amounts of rainfall and nutrient-rich soil with good drainage. Plants use the long summer days as a cue for when to flower around July or August. Plants can grow up to 30 feet tall and are typically suspended by free-standing poles or lattices will trellising twine.
Any hop rhizomes you buy will be female. Male hop plants are not cultivated. Spring is the best time to plant hops. First-year plants expend energy growing roots with only a few cones possible. By the second year, you should see a marked increase in cones.
A commercial hops yard using a trellis and pole system to suspend hops plants.