Ornamental corn varieties are mostly flint type corns (Zea mays indurata) with hard variously colored kernels. While originally grown as food, 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 from other types of corn 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 ornamental corn varieties are open-pollinated. Seed can be saved if it is isolated from other types of corn including sweet corn and dent corns. Ornamental popcorn should be considered for miniature decorative ears and the dual purpose of popping.
|Ornamental Corn and Popcorn Varieties|
|Full-sized ornamental||Miniature ornamental|
|Bloody Butcher||Indian Fingers|
|Earth Tones Dent||Little Jewels|
|Indian Art 104||Popcorn|
|Indian Art Cranberry||Cherry Berry|
|Painted Mountain||Red Strawberry Corn|
|Broom corn||Robust 997 (R997)|
|Red Broom Corn|
See sweet corn Soil Fertility, page 167.
Because of its hard seed coat, ornamental corn should be planted early to allow for full maturity on the stalks. Plant to 9"-10" within rows and 30"-36" between rows at 1"-1.5" deep. Keep ornamental corn away from sweet corn or popcorn that pollinates at the same time as ornamental corn.
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.