In this guide, I will go over all the Information, that you need to know to successfully grow corn in a container. If you follow this guide you won´t only have healthy plants but your corn plants will also produce a great harvest for you to enjoy. So let’s get started!
So how to grow corn in a pot? Choose the right corn variant, like a dwarf variety, and use a container that has 12 inches in both depth and width. You will need soil, that retains moisture well and in order to ensure some harvest, you will need multiple plants to increase the chance of pollination or you have to pollinate manually.
These days, it is very possible for you to own a kitchen garden – even without much space. Many people are embracing the concept of potted plants.
And while most people often think about flowers, kales, spinach, and other vegetables at the mention of potted plants, it is very well possible to grow plants like corn in pots as well.
Growing corn in containers is very practical. However, the difference comes in the yield in the sense that the yield from corn grown in a container will be less than the yield from corn grown in the field.
Corn generally needs a lot of space for it to flourish, and most small or medium-sized containers just don’t have as much room as needed.
Therefore, the first step is to choose large pots and also try as much as possible to reproduce the external optimum conditions for your corn plants.
Choose the Right Soil
Every plant has the type of soil in which they thrive best.
For corn plants, they need the type of soil that best retains moisture without quickly drying out. However, the soil should also drain well enough to avoid waterlogging or sogginess.
With that in mind, the best soil for growing corn plants in containers is a peat-based potting soil.
Watering the Corn Plant
Water is very crucial in corn plants especially if you are targeting to produce corns that are sweet and soft.
Therefore, make a point of watering your corn plants at least every other day to ensure that you retain enough moisture for them to thrive.
Watering is very important especially during fruiting.
How to Fertilize the Soil
The best time to start adding fertilizer to your corn plants is ten weeks from sowing.
Dig a hole that is about 2cm deep and wide around each corn plant. Pour half tablespoons of either the 5-10-10 or the 10-20-20 fertilizer for every plant.
Next, add the soil and incorporate it with the fertilizer.
Choosing Containers to Grow Corn in
As stated above, the type of containers you choose to grow your corn plants are very crucial since they have a direct effect on the yield produced.
The best containers to grow corn plants should be at least 12 inches in both depth and width.
One of such containers can hold up to four corn plants. It is also important to ensure that your containers have enough holes at the bottom for drainage.
It is also recommended that you choose dwarf corn varieties that do not grow taller than 4 or 5 feet. Good examples of such varieties include the Sweet Painted Mountain corns and the short-stemmed Trinity.
The positioning of your container is also important. Look for a sunny spot since corn thrives better under sunny conditions.
Also, consider a container that is large enough to hold multiple plants to encourage pollination.
Varieties for Growing Corn in Containers
There are different varieties of corn. However, when looking to grow corn in containers, your choices are a bit limited.
As discussed above, always go for the dwarf options as opposed to taller varieties as these are more accustomed to growing in conditions with limited resources such as containers.
Moreover, it is easier to fit in more corn plants of the dwarf variety in one container as opposed to the taller corn plants.
Therefore, as mentioned above, two of the best varieties to grow in containers are the short-stemmed Trinity, and the Sweet Painted Mountain.
To largely increase the chances of pollination, corn requires block planting. Therefore, make sure that the container you choose to work with is large and spacious enough to hold at least three rows of a minimum of three plants.
A good option for this includes large storage tubs. Remember to drill some holes at the bottom for drainage purposes.
Next, place about two to three bricks in the bottom of the containers but make sure that you don’t block the drainage holes.
The blocks are used to weigh down the containers or storage tubs so that when the corn plants finally grow, they will not tip over due to their weight.
Moreover, mix in a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen – a good example is the 10-5-5 blend.
Mix it with the soil before the planting process to jumpstart the initial growth. Follow the instructions and the amount recommended on the label according to the size of the container you are using.
If you are only planting corn for fresh eating, it is recommended that you plant at least 10 to 15 plants per person.
If you want to extend your harvest, look into an early-maturity corn type that yields every 2 weeks for about 6 weeks.
Other options include planting both early, mid-season, and late types at the same time.
Moreover, to avoid cross-pollination, always ensure that different cultivars (especially those of that are super sweets) are at least 400 yards apart or more.
The alternative is to plant them such that they will tassel 2 weeks apart.
Place your container in a sunny spot away from the wind.
It is important to note that corn is such a heavy feeder- especially when it comes to nitrogen. Therefore, always ensure that your soil is nitrogen-rich.
An alternative to these would be planting your corn together with other soil-enriching crops such as beans, or hairy vetch. You can also try planting your corn where clover grew last season.
Another alternative is to add about 20 to 30 pounds from the compost pile per 100 sq. ft. to the soil during preparation for planting.
When to plant corn
It is always advisable that you plant your corn seeds around
two weeks after the last spring frost.
This is because corn is quite sensitive to frost as it shall be discussed later. Make use of online planting calendars to help you determine the best planting dates for your area.
Always keep in mind that corn requires a fairly long growing period under warm weather. Therefore, strive to plant your corn as soon as possible.
However, if your region has a shorter growing season, choose an early variety that will mature before the first fall frost.
Always maintain the soil temperature above 160C (600F) to ensure successful germination of your corn seeds.
In addition, super sweet varieties require higher temperatures for successful germination. Therefore, maintain their soil temperatures around 650F or 180C.
If you are living in a colder region, try warming the soil with a black plastic cover when necessary. You can even consider planting your corn seeds through the holes in the plastic if it comes to that.
To extend your harvest season, plant another crop several weeks after you planted your first round of corn.
For kernels to be produced, pollen grains must be deposited by the wind from the tassels (the top part of the plant) onto each of the silks on the ears.
For every silk that is unpollinated is equal to an undeveloped kernel.
However, since planting corn in containers can be quite limiting due to lack of enough space, it is possible to encourage pollination by transferring the pollen from the tassels to the silks yourself.
As soon as you see the silks emerging from the ears and the tassels start looking loose and open, collect the pollen and encourage hand pollination.
Just check out for a morning that is calm and has no breeze. Shake the tassels over a dry container to release the pollen. Collect the pollen from several plants.
Next, transfer the pollen immediately into a small paper bag and sprinkle the powdery substance onto the silks of individual ears in your corn patch. Repeat at least once or two times on simultaneous days for best results.
If you want to know more details about pollination of corn than you can check out my in-depth article about corn pollination and why it is almost impossible for a corn plant to pollinate itself here.
Harvesting your Corn
Your harvesting patterns will depend on several factors such as the corn variety you chose to plant, and your planting pattern.
Generally, corn is usually ready to harvest anytime between 60 and 100 days after planting. However, it is important to factor in the weather conditions of your region since they also have a direct effect on your harvesting patterns.
As already stated above, corn requires lots of space to thrive. Therefore, it is normal for corn grown in containers to give less yield as compared to corn grown out in the field.
Moreover, plenty of Nitrogen will also help ensure a higher yield for your corn plants.
Also, how you care for the corn plants also has a direct effect on the amount of yield. Planting your plants several weeks apart will also ensure that you harvest continuously throughout the season.
How to Care for a Corn Plant
You don’t have to break your back caring for a corn plant. As long as you understand what corn needs, you won’t believe how easy it is to care for a corn plant.
Corn needs warm soil and full exposure to the sun. Therefore, make sure that you place the containers in an area that gets at least 6 or more hours of full sunlight.
Consider placing the containers against a wall to help reflect light and retain heat. Always water in the morning on a regular basis and use a 10-10-10 fertilizer once the plants are about 2 feet tall.
Also, water the corn plants again in the evening. Mulch around the plants with newspapers, wood chips, or grass clippings to help retain moisture.
Mulching also helps keep weeds on the minimum. With enough exposure to sunlight and minimal care, your corn plants should be ready for harvesting in no time.
Problems associated with planting corn in containers and Pests
As much as it is fairly easy to grow corn plants in containers, there are several problems that you need to watch out for.
Cutworms are notorious for attacking corn seedlings, and flea beetles also chew holes in the leaves of young corn plants.
Corn earworms are also among the best-known pests that attack corn plants. Besides corn, they can also attack tomatoes. They are commonly found in the Central and Southern states.
As discussed above, silk ears are very important during pollination of corn plants. However, earworm moths lay their eggs on the corn silks and once hatched, the larvae crawl inside the husks and feed on the tips of the silk ears that are still developing. To prevent the earworms from attacking your corn plants, use a spray bottle or an eyedropper to apply a mixture of water, a few drops of dishwashing liquid, vegetable oil, and Bacillus thuringiensis to the tips of each silk ear a few days the silks appear.
A good alternative is to pin the tip of each ear with a clothespin once they start turning brown to prevent entry by the worms when crawling.
Always watch out for the European corn borers which feed on the foliage, especially around the tip of the stalk where the leaves are formed. They also bore holes into the silk ears that are still developing. These corn borers can be controlled by sponisad or Bacillus thuringiensis.
Watch out for the winter refuges and destroy them to break their life cycle.
The cucumber beetle larvae (also called corn rootworms) feed on the roots of the corn plants. As a result, the corn plants become weak and they finally collapse. To kill these rootworms, make use of the Heterorhabditis nematodes and apply them to the soil.
Seed-corn maggots also attack kernels especially when they planted too deeply under cool soil. The only way to control them is to wait until the weather becomes warmer and plant a new crop and on a shallower level.
Animal pests such as birds, raccoons are also equally important to watch out for. Birds mostly attack during seeding and harvesting, while raccoons attack the ripening silk ears.
Always ensure that you maintain clean garden practices, and practice crop rotation. Take advantage of resistant hybrids, and this will ensure that you get healthy corn harvest. Lastly, watch out for Stewart’s wilt and corn smut.
If you want to know why your corn leaves are turning yellow, then you can find an in-depth article, that lists a lot of possible reasons and the solutions to the problems right here.
It is very possible to grow corn in containers. All you have to do is choose a container that has enough room since corn needs much space to thrive.
Always opt for dwarf varieties such as strawberry popcorn, Chires Baby Sweet, Sweet Spring Treat, Trinity, and Sweet Painted Mountain.
Also, consider a fast growing variety such as Casino, or Bonjour. Other Super Sweet corn varieties suitable for growing in containers include Xtra Tender, Sugar Pearl, Vision, and Bodacious.
Painted Mountain is suitable in cooler regions where the growing seasons are shorter. Always go for container garden soil that is specifically formulated to retain moisture.
You can also add an all-purpose fertilizer or fish emulsion to make the soil richer in nitrogen and other nutrients. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, this complete guide on how to plant corn in a pot is the perfect lookbook that provides answers to all your questions.
So start your own container garden today with planting some corn. Trust me, nothing will taste better, than food, that you grew your own!