Understanding the Different Types of Corn

63039276.UQtYQrsjThere are many different types of corn, with the two most common types being sweet and field corn. Within these two main groups are many distinct and separate varieties, which are often categorized based on the shape of the kernel. Each variety has its advantages and disadvantages: some are bred for particularly high yields, while others are bred for their taste, and still others are bred for a particular shape. There are also specialty corns, some of which are grown mostly for experimental use or for decoration.

Sweet corn (Scientific name:  Zea saccharata and Zea rugosa)

Sweet corn is primarily eaten on the cob, or it can be canned or frozen for future consumption. Sweet corn is seldom used for feed or flour.

  • Standard or Normal Sugary (su) Good for early sowing because it germinates
    in colder soils than other types of corn, old-fashioned  corn begins declining in sweetness within an hour of being picked.
  • Sugary Enhanced (se) Refrigerated, tender, creamy-textured Sugary Enhanced corn stays sweet three to five days. Since cross-pollination has little effect on its sweetness, there is no need to isolate Sugary Enhanced corn from standard sweet corn varieties in the garden. However, growing se corn along with colored corn will affect corn appearance by adding colored kernels onto cob.  Peaches ‘n cream & Sugar Buns are se corn available in Prairie Rose Seed Boutique.
Peaches 'n Cream
Peaches ‘n Cream
Sugar Buns
Sugar Buns





Popcorn (Scientific name: Zea mays everta)

Popcorn, a type of flint corn, has a soft starchy center surrounded by a very hard exterior shell. When popcorn is heated the natural moisture inside the kernel turns to steam that builds up enough pressure for the kernel to explode. Popcorn can be yellow or multicolored, as Carousel or Strawberry corn.  Colored popcorn often grown for its decorative looks.

Carousel corn
Carousel Corn
strawberry corn
Strawberry Corn


Flour corn (Scientific name: Zea mays amylacea)

Blue Hopi Corn

Flour corn is used in baked goods because it has a soft, starch-filled, kernel that is easy to grind. Flour corn is primarily white, although it can be grown in other colors, for example, blue corn such as Blue Hopi. For making flour corn is allowed to reach full maturity. It is one of the oldest types of corn.  Colored flour corn usually used as ornamental accent for fall holidays.

 Avoiding Cross-pollination

  • Two varieties may be planted at the same time if there are two to three weeks difference in maturity dates so that they will be pollinating at different times.
  • If two varieties with similar days to maturity are planted at the same time, plant windbreak or barrier crops (such as several rows of tall sunflowers) between the types of corn to help keep pollen from traveling; or
  • Simply plant one and then delay planting the other for three weeks.
  • Plant corn with wind direction in mind might also prevent cross-pollination. Plant the earlier corn downwind.
  • The remaining alternative, distancing varieties which need to be isolated from each another by 250 to 500 feet, is usually not an option for home gardeners.
  • Be aware that colored ornamental corn needs to be isolated from sweet corn to avoid kernel discoloration. 

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