Can You Grow Corn From Popcorn Kernels?

If you live in the English-speaking part of the world, then you've probably come across the saying, "the best thing since microwave popcorn," implying that it's one of mankind's greatest inventions. Although we are used to buying them in individual kernels, popcorn is just like any other corn vegetable which starts on a cob that grows from the ground. Popcorn and sweet corn are two different varieties, with the main difference being that popcorn is left to dry and harden before harvesting while sweet corn is harvested when it's still tender. Surprisingly, you can actually use those regular popcorn kernels to grow new corn plants right in your own yard.

When you buy popcorn kernels, you're buying them dry with only just enough moisture in them to turn into steam when heated to make them explode. Since corn seeds are typically dry when planting anyway, you can plant popcorn kernels straight from the store. If you're in the mood for a fun gardening project that'll yield some tasty ears of corn or just plain curious as to how you can grow popcorn, you can grab a bag of kernels from your pantry shelf and get started.

Soak the kernels in water to expedite the germination process

When it comes to growing popcorn, the best type you can get is a bag of plain, unflavored, and butter-free kernels so that flavoring chemicals don't interfere with the germination process. The first thing you should focus on is creating seed sprouts by letting the kernels germinate. Soak a batch of kernels in a container of water for about 12 hours. Make sure the water level is well above the seeds and the container is in a dark space like a cabinet. The kernels will begin to swell which means that the absorption process is working.

Once the kernels are ready, it's time to choose a nice, sunny spot in your yard for planting. Make sure they're spaced out at least 6 inches from each other and 1 inch deep. You can cover the topsoil with plastic bags after a watering session with a spray bottle to keep the ground moist. Your shoots should start coming out of the ground and reach 4 to 7 inches in about 21 days. Once your seedlings sprout, it's time to space them out to give them more legroom to work with. Popcorn stalks grow to about 8 feet tall so they'll need it.

Harvesting the popcorn

Watching your garden blossom with popcorn stalks is one thing, but the journey isn't over until harvest time. Corn loves to grow in full sunlight so make sure they receive at least six hours every day. They also need to be watered adequately. Once your corn plants begin to tassel, it's time for pollination. Because they're wind-pollinated, you don't have to do much, but you can assist by ensuring the plants are spaced out well, with 16 stalks for every 32 square feet.

Popcorn plants mature about 100 days after you plant them. You can tell your corn is ready to harvest once the leaves turn brown. You can spread them indoors to keep drying before you dislodge the kernels for popping. Don't be surprised if not all of the popcorn kernels germinate. A lot of commercially sold popcorn kernels have been exposed to very high temperatures and numerous processes, so they might not all be viable. If your seeds don't sprout after a couple of weeks in the ground, you can try again with a different brand of kernels. Also, keep in mind that if you do have sweet corn already in the yard, keep it far away from your popcorn because if they cross-pollinate, you'd be stuck with a terrible-tasting yield.