Hops from Seed for Privacy
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Fran Dale
Posted on: March 18, 2001

I ordered some hops seeds from you last week. However, I am uncertain how to start them and wondering if I should have ordered plants. In Calgary, where planting dates are sometimes June 1, would I have to start the seeds inside, and if so, when? How long do you think it would take to have it cover a 10 ft. trellis, and how many plants would be required. I would certainly appreciate any help you could give me. My primary objective is to obtain some privacy on a small lot, and hopefully this summer!

If you ordered the annual japanese hops, you can grow those from seeds and expect a reasonable amount of growth and privacy, but not until the latter part of the summer. These seeds need to be started indoors in late April or early May to be ready to plant out June 1.

If you ordered the regular hops, Humulus lupulus, then you will not have much cover until the second or third year. This hops is a hardy perennial which will survive your winters, but it takes a season or two to develop the root mass to support the growth needed to cover the trellis enough to offer privacy. In addition, the seeds are slow to germinate and slow to reach a size big enough to plant outdoors. You need 30-40 days to get germination, and maybe longer, and they take another 30-60 days in pots before being going in the garden where they are to grow. So, this year will be a year of getting the hops plants established and not much privacy. In subsequent years, the hops plant will increasingly get bigger and more lush, so by the third or fourth year you should have good privacy.

Hops is a climber so you may need to give it some help to direct it to where you want it to grow on the trellis. It will want to grow straight up and won’t necessarily fill in unless you plant several plants 30-60 cm (1-2 ft.) apart. Hops is also a heavy feeder and needs good soil enriched with composted manure. Annual top dressings with composted manure is a good idea starting in the second or third year.

As with japanese hops, regular hops will not cover the trellis until the latter part of the summer. It is a herbaceous perennial which means that it will die down to the ground annually. It takes a month or two in the summer to regrow; but with care it can reach the 10 ft. height of your trellis, and beyond, with ease each summer.

Should you get plants instead of seeds? If you intend to use hops for beer making, then you need plants, because seeds produce both male and female plants and only the females are used for beer making. The named cultivars that are only available in plant form also have better beer making qualities than what you get from seed-grown plants. If your only concern is privacy, then the plants will give you a one year headstart over the seed grown plants.

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