There are plenty of sweet corn varieties it can be confusing which one to choose. Are you planning forward to grow sweet corn? If the answer is yes, we have something for you. Here, we will not only tell you varieties of sweet corn but also growing strategies and things you should consider when choosing which variety to plant.
We start by getting to know the types of sweet corn first. Then, we will give examples for each type with their characteristics. After that, we listed things you should consider when choosing a corn variety to plant. This is important, especially if this is your first time. Finally, we close with corn growing strategies. Alright, let’s start.
Types of Sweet Corn Varieties Based on Flavor
Before we get into corn varieties, let’s start with types of sweet corn first. There are three types of sweet corn based on flavor. These types are the “old-school” yet hardy standard corn, the longer-lasting sugary enhanced corn, and the sweetest of them all, supersweet corn. We explain the types briefly below.
1. Standard corn
Standard corn, also known as SU, is the oldest, most familiar, and one of the hardiest corn varieties out there. This is the type of corn with tasty flavor. Many members of standard corn types are open-pollinated and heirlooms and have been around for many years. Standard corn can be planted in cool soil, as cool as 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Compared to the other two corn types, standard corn has a very small window to eat before the sweet flavor starts to degrade. So if you plan to plant standard corn, be sure to eat it within one hour after harvest. If you plan to store your yields, this type is not ideal.
2. Sugary enhanced corn
The next type is sugary enhanced corn. In this type are hybrid corn varieties that don’t lose their sweet flavor for up to three days. This provides growers a three-day window for harvest. Unlike standard corn, sugary enhanced corn needs warmer soil (around 10 degrees warmer than standard corn) to grow optimally.
Since sugar enhanced corn type keeps the sweet flavor for three days, you can pick the corn anytime within that time window. This means that daily monitoring is not necessary, again, unlike standard corn. If you want to grow corn but don’t plan to consume it immediately, this type of corn suits you well.
3. Supersweet corn
Just like sugar enhanced corn, supersweet corn type also consists of hybrid corn varieties. Speaking of sweet flavor, supersweet corn has the sweetest taste. So if you like sweet corn, you want to consider planting supersweet corn type. This corn type keeps its sweet flavor for two to three days.
As good as it is, supersweet corn is quite demanding. It needs warm soil, 65 degrees Fahrenheit at a minimum during the planting time. It also grows best when the soil is pre-warmed (you can warm the soil by covering the planting beds with black plastic, for example). Compared to the standard or sugary enhanced type, supersweet is less vigorous.
Standard Corn Varieties
The most common standard corn varieties are Butter and Sugar, Golden Cross Bantam, Jubilee, and Silver Queen.
1. Butter and Sugar
This corn variety takes approximately 73 days to mature. Its kernels have good flavor and are bi-colored with yellow and white. The ears can grow 7 to 8 inches long. This variety resists southern corn leaf blight and bacterial wilt.
Jubilee takes 83 days to reach maturation. The kernels are tender and sweet with yellow color. It produces large ears, 8 to 9 inches long. Jubilee resists smut and smog.
3. Golden Cross Bantam
It takes about 85 days for Golden Cross Bantam to mature. It has uniform ears, each 7 1/2 to 8 inches with large, yellow kernels. The corn stalks are prolific as well as sturdy. This corn type has resistance to bacterial wilt.
4. Silver Queen
Compared to the other three, Silver Queen takes the longest to mature: 88 days. The wait is, however, worth doing as it has snow-white kernels that are tender and very sweet. The ears produced are 8 to 9 inches long. Silver Queen resists Stewart’s wilt and bacterial wilt.
Sugary Enhanced Corn Varieties
The four most common sugary enhanced corn varieties are Breeder’s Choice, Concord, How Sweet It Is, and Kandy Korn.
Concord has bi-colored kernels that are sweet and tender. It produces slightly tapered ears, 6 to 8 inches long. Although it has no definite time of maturation, Concord is a variety with an early harvest.
2. Breeder’s Choice
It takes about 73 days for Breeder’s Choice to mature. The ears are 8 inches long with light yellow kernels that have a creamy and sweet taste. The sweet flavor can last as long as 10 to 14 days.
3. How Sweet It Is
You need to wait for 87 days to see How Sweet It Is reaches maturity. The white kernels are crisp, tender, and just like other sugary enhanced corn varieties, sweet. How Sweet It Is produces 8 inches long ears.
4. Kandy Korn
Of the four sugary enhanced corn examples, Kandy Korn takes the longest time to reach maturity. It needs 89 days. The kernels are golden yellow, tender, and sweet. The ears are uniform, growing around 8 inches long.
Supersweet Corn Varieties
The next ones are supersweet corn varieties. Included in this type are Early Xtra Sweet, Butterfruit Original Early, Sweetie, and Super-sweet Jubilee.
1. Early Xtra Sweet
As the name suggests, this corn variety does mature early. It takes about 71 days to reach maturity. It has uniform ears, around 7 to 8 inches long. The golden yellow kernels are small, tender, and very sweet.
2. Butterfruit Original Early
Similar to Early Xtra Sweet, Butterfruit Original Early also matures early, with 72 days needed for maturation. The ears are tightly packed. The kernels are bright yellow and have savory flavor.
If you are looking for corn with exceptionally sweet kernels, the Sweetie variety suits you well. It takes a bit longer than the previous two but it is worth the wait. The sweetness is retained for a long time. The ears grow to 7 to 8 inches long with deep golden yellow kernels.
4. Super-sweet Jubilee
The last one is Super-sweet Jubilee. It takes Super-sweet Jubilee 85 days to reach maturity. True to its name, this variety produces yellow kernels with super sweet taste.
Things to Consider When Choosing Corn Varieties to Plant
Alright, now you know various corn varieties from each type. The next question is, which variety should you plant? If you haven’t decided which variety yet, there are things you can consider. These things should help you point out which corn variety suits you best. These things are times needed to reach maturity, water needs and availability, and harvest length.
1. Times needed to reach maturity
In general, sweet corn takes between 60 and 100 days to mature. As you see from corn varieties we listed above, some varieties mature faster than the others. How do you know how long the time needed for corn to mature? You can see them on the seed packet or website.
This is an important thing to consider, of course. Some people are fine with waiting many days before they harvest their homegrown corn varieties. Some others may want to see results as quickly as possible. So before deciding which variety to plant, know the time needed for the varieties to mature and whether you are okay with that.
2. Water needs and availability
Regardless of corn varieties, corns grow best when the soil they are planted on has a steady moisture level, between 50 to 75%. Measured in inches, corns need water about 1 to 2 inches per week. Some varieties can manage light drought conditions, yes, but plenty of water is a must for corns to grow best.
If in the region you live the rainfall is not enough to fulfill the corns water need, you can water them yourself. Just be sure to water the plants directly on the ground and not sprinkle them at the top. Sprinkling water may result in washing the pollens away, something you don’t want to do when growing corns.
3. Harvest length
If you grow corn for fresh eating, consider planting 10 to 15 corn plants per person. Note that this is the minimum number. If you want to add more, then do so. You can extend the harvest time by sowing an early-maturing corn variety every two weeks for six weeks.
Alternatively, you can plant types with different maturation times at the same time. This will give you corn for fresh eating. To prevent cross-pollination, you can either plant them in a way that they tassel at a minimum two weeks apart or separate different varieties at least 400 yards apart.
Additionally, consider the height of the corns. Height is a concern if you don’t want the corns to shade other vegetables in your garden. Keep in mind that different corn varieties have different heights.
Corn Growing Strategies
There may be a lot of corn varieties out there but the growing strategies are mostly the same. Our strategies below should help you get the optimal yields from your corn, whichever variety they may be. Don’t worry. Growing corns are not as difficult as you think. It does, however, require patience. Here are the strategies you can try.
1. Preparing planting bed
For best growth, designate a space where there is full sun. Pick a space where you can plant corn on 2 to 3-foot blocks. This maximizes pollination as close and even proximity of corn stalks improves the chance for pollination. Remember, the pollination is naturally done by the wind as the pollen moves from the tassels to the silks.
For the planting bed, you can either go with raised or flat beds. Either is fine so long as the soil is well-drained and warms quickly. For the best result, add compost (aged compost is best) to the planting area. Corn also like nitrogen, so dusting it with nitrogen-rich soybean or cottonseed meal will help.
2. Planting time
The best time to sow corn seeds is when the soil starts to warm. The minimum soil temperature to grow corn is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, the soil starts to warm between two and three weeks after the last frost. You can cover the soil in advance with black plastic and pre-warm the planting bed.
3. Protection from Pest
During the early stage, protect your corn from pests like caterpillars, beetles, and birds, cover the seeded planting beds. If you find any beetles and caterpillars on the mature plants, handpick and remove them. To turn away earworms, prepare vegetable oil and apply five drops of it to the silks as they start to turn brown.
Believe it or not, corn is grass. Being a member of the grass family, the plant needs regular, even moisture. It needs one to two inches of water per week. To help keep the moisture, place a soaker hose or drip irrigation near the corn stalks base. Cover with mulch to keep the moisture level.
Pollination occurs naturally as the wind carries the pollen to the silks. You can also help your corn plants pollinate by shaking the stalks every day once the tassels appear. Be sure to shake gently. To prevent cross-pollination, give enough space between different varieties or plant them at different times so they don’t flower at the same time.
You can start harvesting your corn about three weeks after the first silks appeared on the stalks. Once the silks becomes brown, check the ears. Ensure that they are filled. If they are, you can pick them. Another way to test harvest-readiness is by pinching a kernel. If white, milky juice comes out, the ear is ready to harvest.
As you can see, each variety has its own unique characteristics. For example, certain varieties grow faster than others. Some have large ears, some have sweet or creamy kernels. You get the idea. So, which corn varieties do you want to plant now? Whichever it is, with proper growing strategies you will get the yields you want. Good luck!