Does anyone trim off hop heads to minimize height?

I made an observation last week with one of my hop binds. The wind ended up blowing off the top foot of a bine and then that foot broke off (we’ve had some severe wind storms lately). Within a few days, new heads popped out where the leaves attach to the bine at every leaf. Reminds me of some story of a mythical creature that grows 10 heads when you cut its first head off! But seriously, these new heads have grown at least 18 inches at this point, and I am trying to train them all to the twine. This gave me an idea. I am struggling to get my set up high enough to accommodate my highest growers. So I was wondering since more heads and “side-bines” (not sure I’d call them side arms as they’re so long already) grow and lower to the grow which would be easier for me to manage, couldn’t I just cut any head that reaches the highest point of my set up and allow for a fuller growth (and maybe more cones) lower to the ground? Thanks.

You could try that but it would almost be the same as training a bunch of vines from the energy usage standpoint of the crown. The only thing you’d have to watch out for would be pinching them too late. Those ‘artificially induced’ sidearms will grow vegetatively (like a regular vine) if they are triggered early in the season while the plant is it’s vegetative growth phase. At a certain point (somewhere around the summer solstice) if you pinch the plant later, you basically will terminate top growth and those sidearms will grow reproductively and just be plain old hop bearing sidearms. Give it a try and let us know how it turns out.

That makes perfect sense. Thank you! I’ll report back regarding this idea later this summer. This particular variety (Nugget) is still very much in the vegetative stage although the solstice is just around the corner. Thanks again.

Those side binds are the ones that produce the actual hop cone. Removing the “growing tip” will only force the plant to try and make another one. I wouldn’t intentionally do it…

I have encountered the suggestion of cutting back hops to the ground, when they are 18" to 24" high, in a number of documents on hop cultivation. This would set them back 2 or 3 weeks (I think) and must reduce the size of the plant somewhat while letting it otherwise have it’s normal growth pattern.

I planted a hop rhizome in spring (last year, from a cutting of an adjacent Cascade) and it grew well and made fewer, but very much larger, cones later in the season than the mother plant which grew just next to it. I am trying this cutback management this year and will see how it goes. Every year is a different season and gives a little different growth anyway, but maybe I’ll see some effect of this management practice. I had seen some explanations of the cutting back of the first shoots as allowing later, more vigorous, shoots to come up, but my early shoots are PLENTY vigorous and I think that there is something more to the cutback practice, but I still haven’t found a good explanation of it…

One document that shows the “pruning” of early shoots is this - on page 11. ... e_Soil.pdf

In a nutshell, there’s basically two types of energy the plants can utilize for growth. Late in the season after the cones have been formed, the plant can still photosynthesize and turn energy from the sun into a form that the plant can use for growth. Being that the plants aren’t producing much growth at this point, that excess of energy will be sent back down to the crown and stored for the following spring. This energy is in the form of carbohydrates and some simple sugars which tends to produce an explosion of growth from those buds located on the upper part of the crown. Some of the shoots that emerge at that point are called ‘bull shoots’ which are very large and hollow and are very easily bent/snapped during windy periods. Also, distance between their nodes (the area where the leaves develop along the vine) is usually farther apart than those trained later in the year. This is important because the sidearms form at the nodes. The less nodes you have along the vine, the less hops you’ll have at harvest.

The other way the plants can derive energy is by the roots pulling nutrition from the soil. This process provides for a more regulated and predictable growth pattern which commercial growers prefer. Growers routinely remove the first growth and time their stringing to help coordinate harvest timing to their advantage. One other huge reason for removing the first growth is for disease management. Downy mildew spores will overwinter in the uppermost buds on the crown and if those first shoots are trained and allowed to grow, the disease will have a very early start in their yards.

On a side note, I trained the first growth on one of my plants this year to see what would happen. I got great growth and they hit the top of the wire very early, but the sidearms on that plant don’t begin to appear until a height of about 12 feet. A plant of the same variety had all first growth removed and the second growth was trained. That plant has sidearms forming beginning at about the 6 foot level and many more vigorous sidearms as opposed to the other.

Do a search for “crowning” or “side cutting” and more articles should come up for you.

“The other way the plants can derive energy is by the roots pulling nutrition from the soil. This process provides for a more regulated and predictable growth pattern which commercial growers prefer.”

To be technically correct, ALL energy is from the sun/photosynthesis; mineral nutrition from the soil is not energy. Very little of the early shoot growth is either instance is fueled by current photosynthesis since the leaves have barely expanded at this time. The plants are mobilizing and depleting more of the stored energy of the rhizome when they push the second flush, and this digging deeper into the already-depleted reserves may explain the more tame growth of the second flush; but I hardly see any difference in the first and second flush vigor on my plants. But the second flush shoots are developing in longer days (shorter nights…) because of the setback, and so may initiate the flowering lower on the bine; as I understand from the literature, flowering depends on daylength and also requires some minimum # of nodes. But from my observations, it must depend on other things and the vigor of the plant. Supposedly floral initiation occurs in the shortening days after the solstice and after some minimum # of nodes, but I have visible flower buds on my plants before the solstice and so floral initiation occurred much earlier - with lengthening days. And it varies somewhat from plant to plant and season to season. I have a Chinook plant I put in from an ordered cutting in mid-April this spring that has open flowers now (pic attached). 2 other Chinooks don’t have any sidearms or visible flowers. The one that has flowers has no sidearms, just a few flowers in the axils; this plant came from a massive rhizome cutting whereas the other 2 were from more modest (thick pencil-size) rhizome cuttings. My more established plants have sidearms 1 foot to 5’ long now (variety dependent) and have young flower buds (distinguished from vegetative shoots by their flattened appearance). The daylength response is certainly real, but each plant/location/vigor/season affects it too. I had a vigorous Cascade last year that, for a while, produced male flowers and then reverted to cones; go figure… I’m just saying that we read these things about how hops behave, but it is somewhat variable (in my plants anyway) what exactly they will do.


Hahaha, got me! That’s what I get for drinking & thinking while trying to draw from things observed from growing since the late 80’s along with things taught in my agronomy classes back in the early 80’s.

I receive a reference book titled “Hops” by R.A. Neve back in the early 90’s that I checked. Apparently, the amount of stored starch converted into simple sugars increases dramatically over the winter and helps fuel the vigorous first growth of the spring. Once that flush is over with, the following growth is a bit more manageable concerning it’s vigor. And you’re 100% right by saying that the stored reserves are being depleted until the new ‘solar panels’ are unfurled as the new growth begins to climb and leaf out.

I was also confused when hearing about how AFTER the summer solstice the flowering began as I’ve got a volunteer that’s pretty much coned-out at this point, and others that are basically still climbing but have (like you) 3-5 foot long sidearms and are in various stages of burr. From the few pieces of the puzzle that I’ve found, it looks like the plants ENERGY is redirected from vegetative to reproductive growth at the solstice, so it’s not a cut and dry type of event. One of my crowns that’s been in it’s location for about 16 years now, was systemically infected with downy mildew so I did what I call a ‘cleansing - crowning’ on it this spring to see if I could reduce the amount of mildew I normally have to deal with. This entailed digging a moat around it and removing all of the crown to a depth of about 8-10 inches. It took about a month before I saw any new growth from it, but it’s at about 18 feet now and was forming sidearms for just about it’s entire time climbing to the top of the pole?

I don’t know how long you’ve been growing, but there can be A LOT of variability with first year plants. Without any rhyme or reason related to the size of the cuttings planted, I’ve had some that have formed full sidearms loaded with cones, and some with only one or two cones at each node? So keep on taking good notes!

Don’t Worry, B-Hoppy… (with apologies to Bobby McFerrin…)

The daylength and node “requirement” are mentioned in these research papers (title and abstracts below) from a post I saw on the forum… Shortening daylength is going to be past the solstice, but I have seen flower primordia in plants in my yard before the solstice, and those primordia were initiated and formed well before they were visible to my eye. I am still not clear on it; does the node number requirement include the nodes produced on the bines that are cut off when the first flush is taken off? That would allow the minimum # of nodes to be present on a shorter second flush shoot and allow the hop flowering to start lower down the bine so that more cones will be produced? (that is a question). And my location, on a hill where we get serious radiational cooling most nights, could provide some different temperature condition from many other sites where hops are grown - they mention temperature in those papers too… So confusing - must have a homebrew to clear my head… (and we must keep the conversation going to try to figure it out!) While my wife may opine differently, I have nothing better to do than spend my days contemplating growth and sensory properties of the glorious hop.


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Inducing Flowering in Hops

I will start by citing two studies:

development and sex chromosomes in hop. New Phytol. (2000), 148, 397-411

“The switch from vegetative to reproductive development in female hop plants is triggered by shortening daylength (Tournois, 1912; Thomas & Schwabe, 1969). The critical daylength is genotype-dependent, although plants of both sexes must initiate a minimum number of nodes before flowering can be induced (e.g. 30-32 for the variety `Fuggle’ ; Thomas & Schwabe, 1969). The influence of daylength on floral induction in male hop plants is less clear. Once these conditions and certain other environmental factors such as temperature are met, the plant switches from the vegetative to the reproductive phase.”


Factors Controlling Flowering in the Hop (Humulus lupulus L.)

“In experiments on the effects of daylength on the growth and flowering of the perennial hop it was shown that Humulus lupulus is a short-day plant. The absolute length of the short day is important since very short days (8h) induce dormancy before flowering can occur. Light-break treatment may therefore promote or inhibit flowering according to the associated main photoperiod. A minimum node number must have been differentiated before the hop can be induced to initiate flowers, an effect analogous to the juvenile condition. Minimum leaf number and critical daylength for induction depend on variety. At low temperature, induction is possible with longer photoperiods. Promotion of flowers by growth retardants (B9 and CCC) in unfavourable daylengths, and delay of initiation by gibberellic acid treatment were also observed.”

You can try to figure it out, I’ve got candy to pack!

Honestly, I think it’s got everything to do with variety as every paper I’ve seen makes it a point to mention what varieties were observed. I’m supposed to have a chance to speak with some folks who are breeders in August and I’ll make sure to ask their thoughts.

I have to add as a follow-up to my original post that the nugget bine that broke in the wind has made these massive 2 plus inch long by at least 1.25 inch wide cones with leaves sticking out between the brachioles (posted about this last week). I had forgotten about that until I realized none of the other nugget bines have these huge cones. The bine that broke obviously is pouring more of its nutrients into less cones. The other bines are very tall and have many tiny cones. It’s early yet as to how big those tiny cones will get, and I’m assuming I will still get more total mass of cones from these intact bines, but it is very interesting to see the differences here. I will report back again when all cones mature and get harvested / dried / weighed. The next question to ask is do these massive cones have a much larger amount of lupulin in them and is the ratio of lupulin to plant material the same, or is it just more plant material? Maybe I’ll try to make two teas, each with an equal dried weight of hop cones and see if the strength is at least subjectively similar. Thanks for all the replies.

I’ve got a couple follow-up questions:
-In the final harvest, was there still a significant difference in average individual cone size between the cut and uncut bines?
-How did the yield amounts differ between the cut and uncut bines?
-If you made the teas, was there a difference and if so, what?

The cones on the cut bine were significantly bigger than the uncut bines, but the yield on the uncut bines was greater per bine. I did not make a tea, so no idea on the lupulin content, AA%, etc. I was too busy picking and drying cones!