Corn, Ornamental and Popcorn

Introduction

Ornamental corn varieties are mostly flint type corns (Zea mays indurata) that were grown for food by the Indians of both North and South America. Today they are grown primarily for ornamental purposes. Popcorn (Zea mays everta) is a variant of flint corn that can be popped. Broom corn (Sorghum vulgare), which is commonly grown as an ornamental, is not actually corn, but rather a relative of the sorghum grown for syrup and seed.

All of these ornamental corns will grow in any sunny, well-drained, fertilized soil that will grow field or sweet corn. Adequate moisture, especially after the ears form, is necessary. Isolation is suggested. Bird damage can be a concern. Use nutrient and pest management recommendations for sweet corn.

Types and Varieties

Hybrids are available, but most of the ornamental corn is open pollinated. Seed can be saved if it is not grown near sweet corn. Ornamental popcorn should be considered for miniature decorative ears and the dual purpose of popping.

Miniature

  • Carousel
  • Little Jewels
  • Indian Fingers

Full-Sized Ears

  • Autumn Splendor
  • Bloody Butcher
  • Earth Tones Dent
  • Fiesta F1
  • Indian Art Cranberry
  • Indian Art 104
  • Painted Mountain
  • Rainbow

Popcorn

  • Cherry Berry
  • Strawberry Corn 
  • White Cloud
  • Mini Blue
  • Robust 997

Broom Corn

  • Colored Uprights
  • Red Broom Corn
  • Texas Black

 

Soil Fertility

See sweet corn lime and fertilizer recommendations

Planting

Because of its hard seed coat, ornamental corn should be planted early to allow for full maturity on the stalks. Plant to 9" to 10" within rows and 30" to 36" between rows at 1 to 1.5" deep. Keep ornamental corn away from sweet corn or popcorn that pollinates at the same time as ornamental corn.

Harvest

Harvest when the kernels are hard and bright and the husks are brown. Husk and hang to dry. Do not box or bag ears when they are first harvested, or they may mold. Mold may occur on the husk and the ear if proper handling and storage techniques are not used.