Hops are incredibly big plants, they can easily shoot up a tree in the matter of a month. Though most will be happy on a medium sized trellis, if you want a more manageable hop then dwarf varieties are something you should look into. Most won’t grow higher than 3 meters yet they will still flower and can have a lot of breadth. We’re going to take a look at the first dwarf variety that was created, Prima Donna.
It was originally known as First Gold, when it was developed by Horticulture research International at Wye College. First bread in 1985 it became commercially available in 1996. The reason for its smaller stature is to allow easy collection, hedgerows of the hop were grown instead of large plants up a pole. This allows smaller machinery to collect the hops. In general they are easier to manage but it does also mean a smaller yield per plant.
Prima Donna is related to Goldings, specifically Whitebreads Goldings variety which is bread to be wilt-resistant. The hop flowers are useful as both a bittering or aroma hop. It has a higher alpha acid concentration, but being otherwise very similar to Goldings. It also often compared to Challenger and Crystal. In 2003 the plant became more common, as it no longer had Plant breeder’s rights and was rebranded as Prima Donna. Now it is a sort after plant for homebrewers, to be used in their own brews or to distract friends from how cloudy their beer is.
Although they are small Prima Donna can fill most of a fence panel. They are a quick growing plant which will produce many shoots. Despite growing smaller in height they can still be bulky plants. It is not simply a miniature version in the sense that everything is scaled down, the leaves and flowers will still be a similar size to most hop plants. It simply doesn’t reach the same heights as other hops. As the plant gets older you’ll generally see it produce more shoots and get bulkier each year. Although it is not unusual that in certain years the plant doesn’t do as well, Prima Donna is pretty hardy and it would take a lot to keep the plant down.
Prima Donna is not the only dwarf hop though. Huge varieties have become popular like Summit, Pioneer, Herald and Sovereign. There are also interesting varieties like Golden Tassel, whose leaves are a greenish yellow making it stand out amongst other hops. If you don’t feel you have space for a large hop they are a great alternative, all of which still produce enough hops for a brew. Now is a great time to buy hops as they will quickly be growing to full size and start producing flowers, so check out our hop page to see what we have available.