Author: Christopher T.
Hop vine - Cannabaceae Humulus spp.
A plant that can be found in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Depending on the species and variety hop vine can be found in North America, Europe, as well as Eastern, Western, and Southeast Asia. Sometimes known as “hops vine”, common species include: common hop (lupulus), Asian hop (japonicus), and Yunnan hop (yunnanensis). The hop vine can grow to a height of about 15-20 ft tall and spreading anywhere from 3 to 6 feet, but being a vine it cannot support its own weight so it attaches itself onto a nearby tree or structure to hold itself erect. It also has perennial roots that overwinter underground before growing again the following season.
Habitat and Site Preferences
Similar to other vines, hop vine prefers warm, relatively moist sites, with lots of light. When planting or managing this species make sure it remains unshaded by removing any competition or grow it in a greenhouse within temperature range. Because the hop vine needs full to partial sun, south, east, and west facing areas are all viable. It grows in cold hardiness zones from 4 to 8 with a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5, and requires an average amount of moisture, but has been found to be drought hearty. While hop vine prefers rich well drained soils it has been known to grow in sand or clay. Remember that vines need a support system to attach to in order to grow, but be aware that not all vines support themselves in the same way. Consider using long wooden poles connected at the top with string when planting hop vine. This will allow the vine to wind up the pole and then branch out alone the strings before producing fruit. Ultimately, the vines simply need something strong enough to climb up, so don’t be afraid to get creative with your support structure if you’re aiming for using the plant for its aesthetics.
One of the most appealing qualities of hop vine is its simplicity to grow and maintain requiring pruning only for practical or aesthetic purposes. The best practice of pruning a vine is to cut off only the twigs and branches spreading outward away from the stem. By doing so, one can control the width and volume of the vine while also encouraging new wood to grow, as well as the production of more fruit. Hop vine has no serious threats from diseases or pests improving their survivability, but may be a threat to people as skin contact with this plant may cause dermatitis.
Hop vines are “dioecious plants” meaning that the plant is either male or female, and have “imperfect flowers” meaning its flowers are exclusively male or female. (A “perfect flower” has both male and female parts) In order for it to pollinate, hop vines require a partner of the opposite sex often flowering from September to October. Its seeds are contained in the ripened female catkins which are called hops. Propagation can be done clonally without seeds by cutting and adding it to a root or softwood portion of a vine.
As mentioned above, hop vine is an easily growing ornamental plant often used to improve the aesthetics of yard or garden by its shape or by providing shade of a deck or porch. Despite its lack of fall colors its good for pollinators like butterflies and bees. Finally, hop vine’s most famous quality is its historic use in the production of beer. The hops are the fruits of the vine (the female catkins) and are harvested and dried before being added to fermented beer to give the beer an appealing flavor. Because only female vines produce catkins, males are used to propagate two different varieties of hop vines together creating a new variety with more favorable qualities.
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