Hop plants in the Autumn and Winter
In winter less people think about buying hops, but it is actually a really good time to establish them. Of course bad weather can be an issue for new plants, but with the right touch you can easily get your hop ready for the spring and summer.
First thing you need to do is understand how your plant will look at this time. Hops are herbaceous perennial, meaning they will shed their leaves and the stems will die back in autumn and winter. The plants may also start looking a bit sad before this, including decolourisation, shrivelling and becoming droopier. The plant is still healthy, this is just the natural process it will go through every year.
If you have already planted your hop in the spring or summer there isn’t much too worry about. Chances are you chose a pretty good place to plant it and know how much you need to water it. If you find the area has become water logged or for whatever other reason needs to be moved this is fine. Hops are generally pretty easy to move but make sure you are careful with the plant all the same.
Often at this time cutting it back to around 3 foot is a good idea. Trimming the plant helps keep it healthy, though it isn’t necessary. You may also choose to plant some of the stems underground (while still attached to the main plant). These may also root and sprout more stems.
Hops can still be planted in these colder months, but you need to think about a few things first. Like any plant you don’t want to be doing much with it in intense cold, but a mild and damp period is perfect. A cold snap is unlikely to kill the plant unless the area is water logged and freezes all the ground. Hops are native plants and have lived through centuries of bad winters. The plant will likely only die in worst case scenarios. One thing to make sure is that the plant has something to grow up later, come spring it will need something to climb so planting it next to a tree or trellis prepares you for this.
You can also keep it potted for the winter. The hop will be quite happy but you have to make sure it gets enough care still. It will need watered regularly and you’ll have to make sure it isn’t getting too big for the pot. It might be a good idea to eventually pot it in a slightly larger pot than the 9cm meter ones we send them in. Keeping them in a greenhouse is a good idea, this way you can keep an eye on it and look after it with whatever other plants you have.
Hops are very hardy plants, you really don’t have to worry about them too much but that doesn’t mean they require no care. Different situations will require different tactics, but mostly you have to let nature take its cause.