How to Successfully Grow Your Own Popcorn
Why You Should Grow Popcorn
Sure, it sounds a little strange. After all, popcorn is cheaply available as kernels and ready-to-eat packs. So why would anyone go through the trouble of growing their own movie snack? More importantly, do the kernels from homegrown popcorn even pop?
Yes, your crop will pop! But this isn’t about taking the long road to eat popcorn. The fun lies with the ease and pride that comes with growing one’s own grain. This makes it a great project for kids and adults alike. Apart from catering to those who simply adore watching seedlings grow, the young popcorn stalks make for a handsome pot plant. So much so that few visitors would recognize it for what it is!
The Difference Between Popcorn and Other Corn
Shops are mostly packed with three types of corn. There is sweetcorn, which is baby field corn picked very early and canned. Then there’s field corn, the source of all corn starch, corn syrup, and cornflour. Field corn is also primarily used to feed animals. Popcorn is the third and perhaps the most recognizable. More importantly, when popcorn is heated over a flame, it’s the only variety that pops.
What You Need to Grow Popcorn
- A few pots (Alternatively, you can use a part of your garden)
- Shop-bought pack popcorn kernels (not the microwave variety)
How Popcorn Is Grown
The process for growing your own popcorn is actually quite easy, and you have more than one option of how to go about doing it.
Soak Your Seeds
The first step is to soak the kernels overnight in lukewarm water. Add just enough water to cover the surface of the corn. Never use hot or boiling water, as this will kill the seeds.
To be honest, I forgot all about my project the first time I tried it. By the second day of soaking, I was stunned to see plenty of “tails” in the bowl. The popcorn seeds were rigorously sprouting!
Don’t make my mistake of picking too many kernels though. If they all sprout—a very likely possibility—then you might not have enough space for every plant, and it’s a waste to throw most of them away. If you plan on growing them in a pot, stick to one seed per pot. In other words, if you have four pots, soak four to five seeds. You can soak more if you’re going to plant them in the garden.
Plant Your Seedlings in Seed Trays
This is optional. You can stick them directly into the pot or plot. However, there’s an advantage to growing your popcorn seeds in a tray for a few days: you’ll see which ones are robust and likely to flourish. Unfortunately, very slow growers tend to remain stunted throughout their lives. Having their own tiny space to grow will also ensure that they’re not competing with the other seeds for nutrients.
Place your tray in a sunny place and water as often as the soil becomes dry.
Place Your Seedlings in Pots (or the Garden)
Once they’re 1 or 2 inches high, plant them out into their permanent place. Keep the root ball that formed in the seed tray so that the plant’s not too shocked by the transfer. That being said, it’s my experience that popcorn is a hardy plant that doesn't easily die off because of a potting transfer. No matter how clumsy.
I planted four in a large pot because they make such lovely pot plants. But if you want a popcorn field, you’d be better off leaving a few feet between each plant. This way they’ll get plenty of sun and not infect each other with diseases (if any).
Keep an Eye on Your Seedlings
This is where things get even easier. Like I mentioned before, popcorn plants are robust. All they need is enough sunlight, water, and fertilizer. That latter provide their leaves with the deep green color, which is coveted by those who love popcorn as a pot plant. A good choice is fish emulsion. You can use it as many times as you like without harming the plant. This is great since popcorn is a gross feeder. They gobble nutrients at lightning speed because they grow so fast.
How Fast Will Popcorn Seeds Grow?
You can expect them to grow a couple of inches a week. When they are between two and four months old, most will start to produce corn cobs, even the ones in pots.
Unfortunately, a few weeks afterward, the plants start to dry out and lose their ornamental looks. You can store the cobs in a dry place for months, and use the seeds to grow new plants or make a delicious bowl of popcorn.
Did You Know?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Jana Louise Smit