How to Grow Corn: Sweet, Flour and Popping

Want to grow some cracking corn? Learn how to grow corn with this simple guide.

If you’ve ever wondered how to pop up a patch of corn here is our simple guide on how to grow corn! Here, we’ll cover the basics, including different types you can grow, and some of our favourite varieties.

This is followed up with a simple guide on how to grow corn, from sowing through to harvest.

Types of corn

Civilisations have been founded on the back of corn – from the Incas to the Mayans – and there are a bewildering number of varieties for those of us simply used to yellow sweetcorn.

Here are the main types available for gardeners in Australia, plus a few of our favourite cultivars.

Sweet corn

The most popular type for gardeners in Australia, sweet corn (what we usually just call “corn”) is a summer garden staple. Most varieties for sale, however, are F1 hybrids, which means many open-pollinated heritage varieties are dying out. Support heritage seeds by trying these cultivars:

  • Anasazi (amazing colourful sweet corn that will make your dinner plate pop).
  • Golden Bantam (compact , sweet and reliable).

Flour corn

Flour corns, sometimes called “maize” are those which are used for… you guessed it… grinding into flour! No good for eating fresh, these corns are the staple of Latin America.

Once you’ve made tortillas from your own homegrown corn we think you’ll quickly find your summer garden full of towering flour corn plants. Varieties we can recommend include:

  • Reid’s Yellow Dent (wildly productive, enormous plants with enormous ears of corn, makes a delicious masa and also great for feeding as fodder).
  • Painted Mountain (wild multi-coloured ancient corn variety, not as productive as dent but worth growing for the colourful wow factor).

how to grow corn

Popping corn

Cute little mini cobs that come in a bunch of colours; a great one to grow with kids. We only grow the mini blue popcorn variety but they are also easily available in yellow and strawberry colours. Sadly, they all pop white!

How to grow corn

When to plant corn

Corn is a warm-weather crop. This means it must be sown after any risk of frosts. It can be grown Australia-wide. You can sow direct once soil is warm, or get a head start sowing indoors in trays if you live somewhere a little colder.

In temperate areas corn has traditionally been limited to summer growing (with sowing happening in late spring). Thanks to our warming climate, however, we’ve had success growing corn as late as January in our (once) cool-temperate climate.

Corn loves mediterranean, subtropical and tropical climates, the warmth of which extends it’s season. However, care must be taken to irrigate it sufficiently in drier conditions, as corn is a thirsty crop.

growing corn

Preparing the soil

Corn is a hungry crop, so a rich soil of well-composted humus is ideal for optimum growth.

Planting out and pollination

Corn, unlike many other vegetables, is wind pollinated. So to maximise pollination potential always plant corn in a large block. Corn grows happily with friends (traditionally climbing beans and pumpkin) and these underplantings can help form a green mulch that will help keep soil moist.


When harvesting corn we usually wait until silks have browned and ears feel full. If in doubt you can peel back a little of the husk and take a peek. Corn is ripe when it looks to be the correct colour and the kernels leak a milky juice when pierced with your fingernail.

Corn is an incredibly versatile species that can form a satisfying mainstay crop for any aspiring self-sufficiencer. It can be a vegetable, a flour or a crunchy snack. What more could you ask from a plant?

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