Germinating Corn: 5 Surprising Ways and Techniques

Growing corn is a lot of fun, but you may be wondering what you actually need in order to take the first step. Is it possible to grow corn from an ear of corn or do you need some special seeds? Before you get too far into your project and decide that this method doesn’t work, let’s take a look at all of the possibilities, so you can make an informed decision about whether or not you should try it yourself.

Yes, you can grow corn from an ear of corn

In fact, if you let it grow long enough, it will begin to reproduce on its own and create new kernels. While corn ears are unique fruits with many parts that aren’t found in other plants, they can produce roots after several weeks. Each corn kernel is technically a corn seed.

Theoretically, each kernel on a cob could germinate and grow into a full-size plant. In practice, however, only a fraction of seeds actually sprout under optimal conditions. Germination rates typically hover around 25 percent for sweet corn and 50 percent for field corn varieties like dent or flint.

Can you grow corn from store bought corn?

You probably know that you can save seeds from your favorite plants and grow a new crop next year, but is it possible to plant corn kernels you’ve purchased at a store and produce a new ear of corn?

Learn how to raise your own quail and have an unlimited supply of eggs and meat.

To grow corn from purchased ears, you must start with special kinds of corn called open-pollinated varieties (OP). OP seed keeps its genetic makeup strong over several generations because it’s not cross-pollinated, which allows breeders to keep track of desirable traits and maintain their original characteristics.

Common types include Silver Queen and Golden Bantam, but there are countless varieties that may be right for your garden or farm depending on the climate or growing conditions.

Can you plant a whole ear of corn?

Sticking a whole ear of corn in the ground may result in germination and a new plant springing up, but it’s not the ideal way of sprouting.

Income School

You can improve your chances if you’re growing corn in a greenhouse under controlled conditions. The first step is to cut a sliver (approximately 2 mm thick) off one side of the ear, but be careful not to damage any kernels.

You can then insert it into media such as soil or vermiculite in a test tube or pot, place it in indirect sunlight, and cover it with plastic wrap. After 10 days you should see some sprouts emerging through about three inches of growth medium.

At that point, you’ll want to carefully transplant them into pots and place them back in indirect sunlight for another couple of weeks until they’re ready for their final destination.

Planting corn from canned corn

During canning, the corn seeds lose their ability to germinate, which means that canned corn seeds can’t be planted. During the canning process, the seeds undergo heat treatment, and they are placed in a brine made of sugary salty water, which damages the seeds to the point that they are no longer alive.

Can you grow corn frozen corn?

It’s definitely possible to grow corn from frozen corn kernels. Frozen vegetables are harvested at their peak, blanched in hot water or steam, and then flash-frozen. During this process, they don’t lose their ability to germinate.

This preserves them as close as possible to when they were picked; however, there are certain vitamins that can degrade during that process. You can slow down that degradation process by storing frozen vegetables in a vacuum sealer bag and placing it in your freezer immediately after you buy them so you can eat fresh veggies year-round!

Can you germinate corn in water?

You can germinate corn in water pretty easily. The first thing you’ll need is a piece of corn with some kernels on it, but no husk or silk. Remove the kernels and plop them in a cup or bowl with some warm water (no hotter than 75 degrees Fahrenheit), and leave it there for five days.

After that, you should see what look like seeds, called cotyledons (what we call seed leaves). Those are actually baby corn plants that are just waiting for food before they sprout up. At that point, plant them in your garden and give them regular water-like every other plant-and watch your baby corn grow!

How can you take seeds off the corn to plant?

There are two options for removing seeds, taking them off whole or scraping them off. Both require some preparation before you can plant your seeds.

You will need:

  • a whole ear of corn
  • a sharp knife
  • parchment paper or wax paper.

Follow these steps:

  1. Place your ear of corn on a cutting board; cut a small piece off, leaving about one inch in place.
  2. Make vertical cuts down each side of your vertical section until you reach the kernel at its base.
  3. Use one hand to keep pressure on top so it doesn’t slip through while you cut.
  4. Put your knife underneath the kernels and carefully cut them away from their bases.
  5. These will be for planting later-you just need to separate them from their other kernel parts.
  6. Use a little force when pulling them out.
  7. Repeat until you have a pile of kernels that are ready for planting.

Growing Season for corn

Corn can be planted in early spring, mid-spring, or late spring. Harvest begins around August and continues until November. During its growing season, corn needs approximately six hours of sunlight a day; direct sunlight will burn leaves and slow growth.

Planting too early-before enough soil has warmed up-will stunt germination and hinder growth; planting too late will cause cold weather damage. Corn is hardy up to 30 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, though lower temperatures can result in damaged kernels that won’t germinate or fail to produce ears with full kernels.

How to grow corn from seed

Growing corn is easy if you know what you’re doing. In many areas, corn is a popular and successful way to re-purpose garden space that would otherwise be left fallow during the cold winter months. There are a few simple steps you need to follow in order to get your seeds ready for planting and successfully grow corn from seed.

Once you’ve done it once or twice, it will seem like a lot less work than trying other popular methods such as purchasing starts at your local greenhouse. Follow these instructions on how to grow corn from an ear of corn kernels.

You can sow directly into your garden, a pot, or even outdoor containers.

  1. Take five or six kernels of whole kernel corn (non-germinated) (you’ll find whole kernel corn on sale near Thanksgiving).
  2. Soak overnight in warm water just until they begin to swell; plant immediately after removing from water.
  3. Plant seeds 1 inch deep, 3 inches apart, and 4 inches apart in rows; water regularly with care not to overwater so the soil remains lightly textured; germination should occur in about a couple of weeks.
  4. Keep soil evenly moist but not soggy since corn does not tolerate wet feet. When several leaves appear, thin down to one plant per hole; at the three-leaf stage, side-dress lightly with fish emulsion fertilizer every three weeks. Roots should appear soon after the 6th week.
  5. When foliage appears through the topsoil line, add 2 inches of mulch around stalks; continue watering until the danger of frost or freeze. As long as soil temperatures remain over 60 degrees Fahrenheit — which shouldn’t be too much longer — your corn should continue to grow.
  6. Use tassel to determine whether pollen has been transferred properly and harvest when silks turn brown and harden off a bit–approximately 50 days after pollination began. Harvest by snapping off the entire ear rather than pulling up stalk because the stripping process pulls away valuable nutrients stored in the cob.


Sam is an outdoor enthusiast, who loves spending time in the garden and learning about animals. His motivating forces are his wife and 5 beautiful children. When he doesn't get it right, he will go and try again!

Recent Posts