Troubleshooting Hop Plants
Seeing a problem with the hop plant? It could be a variety of disease. Hops are very resilient, but they are subject to a lot of viruses. Sometimes it may be difficult to determine what it is. A fairly common problem is downy mildew. This is a fungus that causes spikes to fail to grow in the springtime, and can occur when the weather is warm, like at about 70 degrees, moist and wet. This disease leaves infected spikes stunted and brittle, unable to grow. However, this fungus will only infect your hop plant, not other plants in the garden. If you see infected spikes, remove them immediately and bury them in the ground. The leaves of a hop plant infected with downy mildew will look malformed or curled, and will have a grayish black fungus appear on the underside of the leaves. Hop cones can become infected also if flowering occurs during warm, wet weather. The cones will turn brown, quit growing or develop improperly. A copper base product can be used to kill downy mildew. Your nursery should carry products like this. Another common disease is powdery mildew. This disease likes moist climates. In recent times, hops have been subjective to this fungus. It looks like a white powder all over the plant. Again, check with your nursery to get chemicals to fight this. Sulfur is of some help. Viral disease could cause a number of things to happen to the hop plant, depending on the environment it is in. Yellow spots may appear on the leaves, growth may be stunted, it could fail to grow upwards on its support system, or the leaves and bines could look distorted. There is no cure should this occur. These plants should be removed.
Typically all hops will eventually get viruses. Commercially, whole fields will have to be replaced with new plants do to virus and disease. Feel free to go to a nursery and ask for products to keep disease under control. But be sure to tell them though if you are planning on using the hops to brew with, so that you can get something more organic. If you are growing for ornamental purposes, use whatever you want to use. Rely on your common sense. In addition, all the roots we sell are certified, and unlikely to have a severe virus problem.
Aside from disease, problems with your hop plant could be a result of insects. Aphid and spider mite are very common. Aphids are little green pests. They suck juices from plants and during flowering they will enter the young hop cones, causing the cones to mold. They usually are present during rapidly cool weather. Spider mites are very small, have eight legs, and are a reddish color. Take a leaf and hold a hand lens up to it in order to see them and their webs, if you suspect Spider Mite. Shaking the leaf slightly will get the spider to move across the leaf. They feed off the leaves and/or hop cones by puncturing them and sucking out the plant sap. Punctures will leave a small colored spot, eventually causing the leaf to shrivel and die, and will cause hop cones to turn brown. In severe situations, the hop plant will appear red due to this. Spider Mite can be a problem during long times of hot and dry weather. You can help prevent this problem by hosing off the leaves of the plant.
Hops are subject to lots of pests and disease above and below ground. Nematodes may attack the root system. Most common are caterpillars and other common garden pests. Some insects though, such as the lady bug which eats aphid, along with wasps and others can be beneficial to the hop plant.
There are two functions for growing hops. One is for brewing purposes: the other is for beauty, looks, and shade. Try both. Have any climbing flower vines outside? Grow hops in with it. The contrasting colors will look beautiful. Grow hops along fences any way you want. Hops can be trained to grow sideways. Or you can grow a hop plant up a dead tree or around an arbor. These are just some inspiring ideas. Good luck with your growing venture!
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We hope this serves to answer some of the questions you may have.