The same corn species that brings the world field corn, popcorn, and sweet corn has turned up some ornamental varieties that are worth growing in the garden for their statuesque beauty. Corn belongs to the grass family, a widely diversified group that includes bluegrass and bamboo.
Description of ornamental corn: A single seed of corn grows a tall stalk with long, broad leaves topped by a tassel. Pollen from the tassel fertilizes the ears of corn growing from the stalk below. It can grow up to 10 feet tall.
Growing ornamental corn: Corn needs rich, fertile soil and full sun. The soil must be well drained and moist. Wait to plant corn until after the last frost-free date and the soil is warm. Plant seeds 1 inch deep. Space plants 6 to 15 inches apart. Corn forms a series of brace roots to support it, so it will not need staking.
Propagating ornamental corn: Start new plants from seed.
Uses for ornamental corn: Corn is tall and requires space to accommodate it. It's useful as a fast-growing screen and as a plant for the back of the border. Ears of ornamental corn are used in many kinds of dried arrangements -- from door hangings to centerpieces.
Ornamental corn related species: Some corn are grown for their ornamental leaves. Zea mays gracillima variegata is a dwarf (3 to 4 feet high) with leaves having long stripes of white. Z. m. japonica variegata and Z. m. j quadricolor are tall, with long stripes of yellow, white, or pink running lengthwise on the leaves.
Ornamental corn related varieties: Corn grown for its unusual ears include: Rainbow, whose ears have kernels of deep red, yellow, orange, and blue and Strawberry Ornamental Popcorn, bearing small ears with cranberry-colored kernels. It pops like conventional corn but has flecks of ruby-red throughout. Tiger Cub has bold white striped leaves on plants 4 feet tall.
Scientific Name of Ornamental Corn: Zea mays
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