Summer Shandy Hops Vines

Benefits and Drawbacks 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 vigorous growers 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.

Taxonomy, Botany, and Features of the Plants

Summer Shandy hops is an herbaceous perennial vine. "Summer Shandy" is a trademark name. The genus name for hops is Humulus.

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.

These hops vines reach a height of 10 feet, making them something of a dwarf within the Humulus genus. The stems are mildly prickly: Numerous, short bristles cling to your pant leg if you brush up against them. It is not surprising, then, that hops vines can irritate the skin of some people upon contact.

Summer Shandy hops climbs by twining and needs you to guide it so that it will climb where you want it to go.

It is only a moderately good climber. In a test case, it was paired with a much better climber and an even more vigorous plant, Virginia creeper.

The Summer Shandy hops vine shared a pole with the Virginia creeper, and the latter did a much better job of covering the pole and offering a good display.

The hops needed much more help to climb. The Virginia creeper even had to be cut back so that it would not overwhelm its companion. The fact that Virginia creeper is a woody vine (while the hops vine is not) gives it a built-in advantage: It begins the spring already wrapped around the pole, whereas the golden hops has to play catch-up, starting from scratch.

Growing Zones and Conditions for Summer Shandy Hops Vines

Plant Summer Shandy hops vines in growing zones 5-8. Grow Summer Shandy hops in a well-drained soil. Increase soil fertility by working soil amendments into the ground. In northern climates, grow it in full sun for the best golden color. But in the South, it can profit from a touch of shade in the afternoon.

Care for Hops Vines

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. Hops vines spread via rhizomes, so you may have to work to keep them in check if you don't want them to spread. Within the short space of two years, you may find rhizomes that have spread several feet away from the clump of Summer Shandy that you had originally planted.

New vines will sprout from such traveling rhizomes.

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).

To help Summer Shandy climb, you can train it up a post with long 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.

Comparison With Another Golden Hops Vine

Summer Shandy does not stand alone among hops vines when it comes to having a golden color. Humulus lupulus Aureus is a common cultivar that also displays golden foliage.

As a larger plant (it can reach 25 feet tall), the Aureus cultivar is not as well suited as Summer Shandy to small yards. Aureus could quickly overwhelm a confined space; keeping it in check would be a lot of work.

Do Hops Vines Attract Any Wildlife?

Hops plants draw butterflies. 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.

Hip Hop: Beer and Cannabis

Party animals will be impressed with hops vines' connection both to beer and to cannabis.

Cones from the female plants have been used in the brewing of beer for ages. The aromatic strobiles inject a bitter flavor into the beer that keeps it from being too sweet. So the hops isn't what gets you drunk: It's a flavoring agent.

Fewer people are aware that hops vines belong to the hemp family (Cannabaceae), but once they learn this fact the next question is often, "Do the strobiles have psychoactive properties?" They do not.

Uses in Landscaping

Because hops vines are climbers, you will want to provide them with support in your landscaping to show them off in their best light. 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).

A plant with golden leaves, such as Summer Shandy, can be very useful in creating eye-catching color schemes for your landscaping. If you like color schemes of gold-red or chartreuse-red, grow a companion plant such as red salvia at the base of the vine.