When Does Corn Produce Ears?


If you planted corn stalks in your garden this year, you may not have any ears of corn growing on the plants just yet.  In that case, you may be wondering when your corn stalks will produce ears of corn, and if there is anything you should do to help them along.

So, when does corn produce ears?  A corn stalk produces ears between July and October when planted in late spring or early summer.  When you grow corn from seed, it will take 58 to 92 days to produce mature ears of corn.  If you transplant corn seedlings into the garden, it will only take 30 to 71 days to produce ears of corn.

Of course, depending on the variety of corn that you choose, it may take a longer time for your plant to begin producing ears.  Other factors such as over fertilization, lack of pollination, or other environmental conditions can all delay the growth of ears on your corn stalks.

Let’s take a closer look at corn, when it produces ears, and the factors that can affect your harvest.

When Does Corn Produce Ears?

A corn stalk will produce ears for harvest 58 to 92 days after planting from seed, depending on growing temperatures.  It is recommended to plant corn no earlier than the last spring frost date.

corn stalk
A corn stalk will produce ears 58 to 92 days (2 to 3 months) after planting from seed.

To check the frost dates in your area, check out this frost date calculator from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Usually, you will plant corn in May, June, or July and harvest 2 to 3 months later in July, August, or September.  For example, sweet corn can be ready for harvest by July 4 in Pennsylvania.

For more information, check out this article on sweet corn production from the Penn State University Extension.

Of course, different climates can produce corn at different times of the year.  For example, Florida produces 80% of winter (January to June) corn harvest.

The Northeast produces most of summer/fall production for fresh market.  Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin) and Northwest (Oregon, Washington) produce most of the corn used for processing.

For more information, check out this article on corn from the Purdue University Extension.

You can also plant corn seeds indoors in April or May to get ahead of a short growing season.  The seeds will germinate in 10 days, and you should transplant the corn seedlings to your garden 3 weeks later.

For more information, check out this article from Michigan State University on how to grow sweet corn.

Corn stalks can grow 4 to 10 feet in height at maturity.  For more information, check out my article on how tall corn grows.

Sweet corn requires 5 days for pollination after the first silk strands appear.  A mature ear of corn will be ready 20 days after the first silk strands appear.  Remember that the ears will mature faster in hot weather.

corn silk
An ear of corn is ready for harvest 20 days after the silk first appears.

The sugar in corn will quickly turn to starch after it matures, making it less enjoyable for eating.  So, be sure to mark the date on your calendar when silk strands first appear on your corn.  Then, mark the day 3 weeks later as your harvest date!

Harvest corn early in the morning, when it is cool.  Cook and use the corn immediately to prevent the sugar from turning to starch.

How Many Ears Does One Corn Plant Produce?

Typically, a corn plant will produce one or two ears of corn.  Early maturing sweet corn will often only produce one ear of corn.

ear on corn stalk
Most corn stalks will produce only 1 or 2 ears of corn.

Sweet corn that matures later will have two harvestable ears.  The second ear is usually smaller and develops later than the first ear.

Field corn, (used for corn oil, silage, and corn flakes, among other things) yields one to two ears per plant.  This corn has lots of starch but no sugar, so eating quality is poor.

An ear of corn usually weighs 8 ounces (half a pound), with a length of 5 to 9 inches.  An average ear of corn has 400 to 600 kernels in 12 to 20 rows.

For more information, check out this article on corn from the Iowa State University Extension.

One corn stalk can yield multiple ears of corn if space, water, and nutrients are not limited.  For example, baby corn (small ears often used in stir-fry) can produce 6 to 10 ears per plant.

For more information, check out this article on corn from Utah State University.

Do Corn Stalks Keep Producing After Harvest?

No, corn stalks do not keep producing after harvest.  Most corn stalks will yield 1 or 2 ears of corn, and then they are done for the season.

What Kind Of Corn Should I Plant?

You have some decisions to make when deciding which corn varieties to grow.  First, you will need to decide on the sweetness of the ears of corn you will get at harvest time.  You will also need to decide how long you want to wait to harvest your corn.

red and yellow ears of corn
The kernels on an ear of corn can be yellow, white, red, and other colors!

Some corn stalks can produce ears up to 9 inches in length.  Others produce kernels with white, yellow, or red kernels.

Here are some different varieties of corn you can try.

  • Golden Bantam Corn – this corn stalk produces 5 to 6 inch ears with yellow kernels.  Matures in 80 days and reaches a height of 5 feet and a spread of 12 inches.  Sprouts in cool weather and often bears two ears per stalk.  For more information, check out Golden Bantam Corn on the Burpee website.
  • Northern Xtra-Sweet Hybrid Corn – this corn stalk produces 9 inch ears with yellow kernels.  Matures in 67 days and reaches a height of 5 feet and a spread of 12 inches.  For more information, check out Northern Xtra-Sweet Hybrid Corn on the Burpee website.
  • Silver Queen Hybrid Corn – this corn stalk produces 8 to 9 inch ears with white kernels.  Matures in 92 days and reaches a height of 7 to 8 feet and a spread of 12 inches.  For more information, check out Silver Queen Hybrid Corn on the Burpee website.
  • King Kool Hybrid Corn – this corn stalk produces 7 to 8 inch ears with both white and yellow kernels.  Matures in 71 to 73 days and reaches a height of 5 to 6 feet and a spread of 12 inches.  For more information, check out King Kool Hybrid Corn on the Burpee website.
  • Country Gentleman Corn – this corn stalk produces 7 to 8 inch ears with white kernels.  Often called shoepeg corn due to the kernels that do not grow in even rows.  Matures in 92 days and reaches a height of 5 to 6 feet and a spread of 12 inches.  For more information, check out Country Gentleman Corn on the Burpee website.
  • Ruby Queen Hybrid Corn – this corn stalk produces 8 inch ears with red kernels.  Matures in 75 days and reaches a height of 7 feet and a spread of 12 inches.  For more information, check out  Ruby Queen Hybrid Corn on the Burpee website.

Does Corn Need To Be Pollinated?

Yes, corn does need to be pollinated.  However, the wind handles pollination of corn.

For this reason, you should plant your corn in “blocks”, or multiple rows and columns.  This allows corn plants to pollinate each other during tasseling.

corn stalks
Plant corn in blocks to allow the stalks to pollinate each other by the wind.

For more information, check out this article on corn from Texas A&M University.

Corn stalks are monoecious, meaning that they contain both male and female flowers on the same plant.  In fact, these male and female flowers both develop from the same “perfect” flowers.

The ear is the female flower of a corn plant, and the tassel (green, purple, or yellow stigma at the top of the plant) is the male flower.

Remember that dry soil can delay silk emergence and prevent proper pollination, which can affect the production of kernels on ears of corn.  This is because each silk strand connects to one potential corn kernel (ovule).

What Other Factors Affect Corn on Plants?

The quality of care that you give your corn will help to determine how good of a harvest you get each year.  Remember that corn needs full sunlight, meaning exposure to 6 to 10 hours of sun per day.

Other important factors for corn growth are temperature, watering, fertilizing, and spacing.

Temperature For Corn Stalks

Soil temperatures should be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius) for germination of standard sweet corn.  For super sweet corn (containing up to 40% more sugar than sweet corn), soil temperatures should be at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius).

For more information, check out this article on corn from the University of Illinois Extension.

Optimal growth for corn will occur when temperatures are between 75 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (24 and 30 degrees Celsius).  Corn will not grow when temperatures are below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).

For more information, check out this article on corn from the Purdue University Extension.

Watering For Corn Stalks

Corn stalks have extensive root systems, so they can handle some drought stress.  However, it is still important to avoid letting the soil dry out too much when growing corn.

If you find that you have a problem with dry soil, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.

On the other hand, over watering your corn plants can lead to root rot and eventual death. 

garden hose
Be careful not to over water or under water your corn stalks!

The best way to decide when to water is to feel the soil with your fingers.  If the soil feels dry 2 or 3 inches below the surface, then go ahead and water.

For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.

Try to water early in the morning, rather than at night, to allow water to soak into the soil.  Avoid getting the leaves wet to prevent rot, mold, and diseases.

Fertilizing For Corn Stalks

Before you sow corn seeds or put transplants in your garden, add some compost to your soil.  It will provide organic material and nutrients for your plants as they grow.  The best part is that you can make compost yourself from ordinary yard and kitchen waste!

compost bin
Compost is a way to recycle yard and kitchen waste while providing nutrients and organic material for your garden soil.

For more information, check out my article on how to make compost.

It may be necessary to use fertilizers as a supplement to compost, in order to provide extra nutrients if your soil is lacking. The best way to tell if you need fertilizer is with a soil test.

For more information, check out my article on soil testing.

A soil test will also tell you the pH levels in your soil, which should be 5.8 to 6.6 for growing corn.

Although corn does need lots of nitrogen for growth, remember that it is possible to harm or kill your corn stalks by over fertilizing them.

For more information, check out my article on over fertilizing and my article on low-nitrogen fertilizers.

Spacing For Corn Stalks

Finally, make sure to leave enough space between corn stalks to allow for proper growth!  Otherwise, your corn stalks will compete with one another for water and nutrients in the soil.

corn stalks
Space your corn stalks a foot apart to give them enough room to grow, and to avoid competition for resources such as water and nutrients in the soil.

For best results, plant your corn stalks 1 foot apart, with 30 to 36 inches between rows.  Any closer than this, and you may get small ears or no ears on the corn stalks.

As an added bonus, this space makes it easier to water, fertilizer, and harvest your corn.

Conclusion

By now, you have a much better idea of when your corn stalk will produce ears.  You also know a bit more about how to take care of corn stalks and how to avoid the problems that can affect your harvest.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.  If you have any questions or advice about when corn produces ears, please leave a comment below.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jonathon. I’m the gardening guy (not guru!) who is encouraging everyone to spend more time in the garden. I try to help solve common gardening problems so that you can get the best harvest every year!

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