How to Grow Summer Shandy Hops

Benefits of plants with "the golden touch"

Golden hops leaves.
David Beaulieu

Summer shandy hops vines are among the best vines to grow in sunny areas if you're looking to fill in space in your yard. They are fast-growing, vigorous growers in the Cannabaceae family that are valued for the golden to chartreuse color of their leaves. Their vigor makes these plants unsuitable for low-maintenance landscaping. Don't grow them if you are seeking well-behaved plants. But they can be a good choice if their spreading won't bother you, or if you don't mind keeping them under control. Plant your summer shandy hops in the early spring.

In spring and summer, this is simply a foliage plant. But, by fall, cone-like structures (strobiles) develop. The attraction of the leaves is primarily their color and secondarily their shape. It is the new leaves that are golden. Older foliage fades in summer to chartreuse or light green. Many of the leaves are deeply cut into three lobes. The leaves bear teeth along their margins.

Botanical Name Humulus lupulus 'Sumner'
Common Name Summer shandy hops
Plant Type Herbaceous, perennial vine
Mature Size 10 ft. long by 2 ft. (or less) wide
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial sun
Soil Type Moderately fertile, well-drained, and with medium moisture
Soil pH Neutral to alkaline
Bloom Time September to October
Flower Color Light green
Hardiness Zones 5-8 (USDA)
Native Area Europe, Southwest Asia, and North America
Toxicity Non-toxic to humans, toxic to animals

Summer Shandy Hops Care

Grow summer shandy hops in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Increase soil fertility by working soil amendments into the ground.

To help summer shandy climb—they climb by twining—you can train it up a post with twist-ties. Alternatively, pound tent stakes into the ground near the base of the plant and run a string line diagonally from ground level up to a supporting structure. The stems of the plant will twine around the string.

Even better, erect a wooden arbor or perhaps a small pergola partially closed in with latticework to form a trellis. You could also dress up certain types of wooden fences with hops vines, or obscure unsightly chain-link fencing while at the same time screening out unwanted glances from the street (at least for three seasons of the year).

Hops plants draw butterflies, but what they don't generally attract is deer. The small prickles with which they are covered are not very palatable, making these vines deer-resistant plants.

Light

Although summer shandy hops will tolerate lower light levels, it produces its best color and more flowers if given full sun. Therefore, in northern climates, try to grow it in full sun. But, in the South, it can profit from a touch of shade in the afternoon.

Soil

The main requirement for growing summer shandy hops is that the soil it is planted in be well-draining.

Water

Summer shandy hops has average water needs: Keep the soil moist but not soaked throughout the growing season.

Temperature and Humidity

Summer shandy hops grows best in USDA hardiness zones 5-8: Hops needs a minimum of 150 frost-free days to flower properly, followed by a warm summer.

Fertilizer

This vine needs a soil of only average fertility to do well. It will, however, perform best if fertilized annually with compost.

Is Summer Shandy Hops Toxic?

Summer shandy hops is not really poisonous to humans: The stems are mildly prickly, and it is not surprising that hops vines can irritate the skin of some people upon contact.

However, it's very toxic to animals, especially dogs. The specific toxin remains unidentified, but it's surmised that phenolic compounds, nitrogenous constituents, resins, or essential oils are to blame.

Symptoms of Poisoning

If your dog (or more rarely, your cat) ingests summer shandy hops, or any hops, it can bring on something called malignant hyperthermia: The animal's body temperature can rise drastically and this can cause permanent brain and organ damage, and death. Rush your pet to the veterinarian immediately if it ingests hops.

Pruning

Pruning summer shandy hops is something you should do continuously throughout the growing season. As your plant vines, keep them from tangling with themselves. In mid-summer, prune back the foliage from the bottom 2 to 3 feet of your plants. Keep an eye on this plant, and prune back shoots it sends up through the ground to keep the vines airy.

Propagating Summer Shandy Hops

The best way to propagate summer shandy hops is by dividing their rhizomes in the late spring. Using a clean garden trowel, dig down until you locate the rhizome, and gently remove them from the ground. Using your fingers, divide the rhizomes and cut with a sharp, sterile knife into several bunches, and replant immediately at least a foot apart from each other.

Overwintering

Some growers cut down hops vines after the growing season since they do die down to the ground in winter (the roots remain alive, however). But if you don't chop the vines down at the end of fall, the attractive strobiles will give you winter interest (they will be easy to appreciate once the leaves have dropped).

Common Pests/Diseases


Japanese beetles and aphids are among the insects that may attack hops vines. You may notice several leaves on your plant that have small holes in them, but the damage isn't likely to be enough to mar the beauty of the plants. A quick wash with insecticidal soap will fix any problems.

Summer shandy hops is generally free of diseases, but occasionally will be affected by black root rot. To remediate, make sure it's planted in well-draining soil and that any extra shoots that have grown from the original plant have been cut back.