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Planting hops as a screen: Here’s what you need to watch out for!

Hops (Humulus lupulus) are known by beer lovers for their flavor, but they are also an attractive, fast-growing garden plant. Hops grow as a perennial vine, attracting butterflies to the garden and providing fresh hops for home brewing . If your house doesn’t have a privacy fence or borders a neighbor’s house, you lose the sense of privacy that makes a garden feel cozy and inviting. With its 20-foot vines covered in dense foliage from spring through fall, hops can provide privacy at the times you’re most likely to be outside. We’ll explain what to look for when planting hops for privacy in a moment!

Hops as a privacy screen in the garden

Step 1: Planting hops

Hops plants from rhizomes

Instead of growing hops from seed, plant what is called a rhizome. Rhizomes look like a tangle of roots, but they are actually an underground stem system that carries the hop’s genetic material. Hop rhizomes are usually available in early spring at local stores and online home brew stores. If you know someone who already grows hops, you can ask them for some rhizomes as well. Hops can also be purchased as young plants in pots.

hops as shade and fence plants

Hops grow aggressively in the garden and will spread their root system and rhizomes deep and wide. Be sure to plant your hops in an area where you will not grow other plants, or they may be crowded out by the hops. If in doubt, limiting it with a rhizome barrier would be a good idea. 50 liter planters are good for this purpose.

If you want to plant several hop varieties, you should either use separate planters or place the plants in the ground at least 1 meter apart. If you plant them too close together, the root systems will become intertwined and it will be difficult to tell which hops are growing where.

hops as privacy screen terrace

Be sure to choose a spot in your garden that gets full sun throughout the day. Hops are not comfortable in the shade and do much better in a sunny location. It’s also important to provide plenty of nutrients to the soil. Fertilizer or compost are great for encouraging rhizomes when planting.

hops as privacy screen terrace with wooden pergola

Hops need a lot of vertical space to grow. The vines can grow up to 6 meters in height in one season. There are many different methods to build trellises or use guide ropes for the hops to climb.

Step 2: Shoot tip pruning (optional).

hop plants as a screen

Beginning in late March or early April, you will start to see purple bumps protruding from the ground where the rhizomes were planted. These will eventually develop into hop vines. They grow very quickly, at about 20 cm per day.

The first bines to appear are called bull shoots. They are much thicker and grow faster than the later ones. You can definitely pull them up a trellis, but they won’t produce as many hops as the later shoots that appear. If you are growing hops for brewing or want a denser screen, cut them off just above the ground when they are about a foot tall. This will allow the plant to focus its energy on producing more shoots, which you can then train on the trellis.

Step 3. train hop shoots on the trellis.

hops in a pot as a screen for the terrace

After you’ve cut your shoots and the new bines have begun to sprout, it’s time to pull them up your trellis. To do this, simply wrap the bines clockwise around a rope or garden string (which should not be slippery, as the bines need to hold onto the rope).

Step 4. Give your hops plenty of sun and water.

hops as a screen plant free-standing trellis

Once your bines are a few feet long, you’ll notice some major growth spurts. Keep an eye on your trellis and watch for bines that have come loose from the rope, and just wrap them back around it. Your hops need something to climb up on or they will stop growing and your yield or privacy will suffer.

Hops are a very thirsty plant. Water it either daily or every 3 days so that the soil never dries out. If kept in containers, make sure it has very good drainage to avoid waterlogging. In March and April, fertilize hops with compost at least once a week.

Step 5. Cut the lower leaves from the raised bines.

hops as a screen in the garden on a wooden trellis

Once your bines are about 120 to 150 inches tall, you should cut the leaves from the ground to a height of 30 inches. These leaves are especially inviting to insects that could climb up and destroy your plants.

Step 6 Harvesting and pruning

Hops flowers August September harvest

Aside from watering your hops regularly, there’s not much to do over the next few months. If you see dying or yellow leaves, just cut them off.

When it’s time to harvest the hops (usually in August to September, depending on the weather and hop variety), simply pick the flowers off the trellis. You can cut the bines at this time, when it is easier to harvest the hops.

ripe hop blossom

The hops are mature when they become papery and slightly brown at the ends of the hop cones. When you break open a hop cone, you should see many yellow areas where the actual flavor and aroma compounds are located. You can use your hops to brew beer right away!

hops as privacy plants

Every year at the end of the growing season, you cut back the hops to the ground to make room for the next year’s growth. This pruning is usually done in late autumn. The dead shoots can be disposed of in the compost.

If you keep the plant in containers, no pruning is necessary in the fall. Leave the wilted stems through the winter and protect the pot from frost with foil. February is the time to repot the hops.

Ideas for suitable climbing aids

hops as a screen in the garden

The height your hop bines can reach plays a big role in your yield. Once hop bines can no longer climb, they stop growing and die.

If you have access to your roof, laying twine in the garden or in planters is an easy way to achieve good height. Simply tie the garden string to a weighted object and hold it on the roof. Run the string down and attach it to your planters or to a stake next to your hops. In order for the plants to form a dense screen, the strings should also be as close together as possible.

hops as a screen in a pot on ropes uphill

Another method that amateur gardeners have had good experiences with is using long wooden stakes with garden twine running back and forth between them. With stakes 2 meters high, you can achieve the equivalent of 5 meters in height by running back and forth.

hops as a screen in a pot - trellis made of wooden slats and rope

All types of climbing plants are well suited for greening a freestanding pergola, and hops are no exception. The vines wrap around the posts of the structure and then continue to grow horizontally once they reach the top. The dense foliage provides natural shade for summer gatherings.

hops plants as a screen on the pergola

Pulled up a tall trellis/palier, hops provide a good privacy screen for patios.

Hops as a privacy screen on the balcony

hops as a screen on the small balcony

On a sunny balcony, you can also easily plant hops in a container. The disadvantage of hops as a privacy screen is that it overwinters in its root system, leaving behind only a withered stem. The good news, however, is that it grows really fast in the spring and provides optimal privacy screens in a short time. The plant can reach a full 2 feet in five weeks!

Hops in a pot or flower box on the balcony

In a planter box with a trellis (preferably at least 180 cm high), the climbing plant will feel very comfortable. If a suitable container is already on the ground, you can attach a trellis to the balcony railing with cable ties.

hops as a screen on the side of the balcony

Once the hops reach the top of your trellis, you can simply wait for the stems to grow long enough and then carefully bend them down and set them in the trellis in a free spot. The plant will quickly take hold and start climbing back up. Thus, your privacy screen will be even denser and more beautiful!

hops as a screen - trellis attached to the balcony railing