Corn is one of the most popular vegetables, and for good reason.
Cultivated from a native plant which has become an American tradition, this fun, easy to grow crop comes in a range of colors, shapes and sizes, and it makes a perfect addition to any garden.
Packed full of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, this crop can be enjoyed in so many ways, whether eaten fresh, cooked, popped into popcorn, preserved, or even ground into flour.
And one thing is for sure – if you’ve never bitten into a sweet, juicy ear of homegrown corn (best smothered in butter, in my humble opinion), then you’re missing out!
Read on to find out all about the best varieties of sweet corn to grow in your garden.
Some Quick Context
There are three main types of sweet or supersweet cultivars marketed to home gardeners:
The most common cultivar that you’ll find for home growing is referred to as “sugary.” You’ll typically be able to tell if it’s this type since you’ll find “SU” written somewhere on the seed packet or product listing.
This variety is more tolerant of cool conditions, but it doesn’t have a very long shelf life once off the plant.
There’s also a variety called “supersweet” which – the name being a bit of a giveaway here – has a very high sugar content. This variety is usually marked by “SH2,” which stands for shrunken seeds, or sometimes you’ll see a descriptor like “ultrasweet.”
Tese tend to be a little bit more temperamental than sugary cultivars and can be a bit more challenging to grow. SH2 varieties lasts around a week in the fridge.
The third type is also a supersweet variety (I think it’s pretty clear that corn is a good crop choice for those with a sweet tooth!).
Like SH2, this type has a high sugar content, but the kernels last longer on the plant after harvest. It is usually referred to as “SE” for “sugar extended.”
SE varieties tend to be very sweet, tender, and crisp. This type is a little bit pickier about its growing conditions than the others, requiring warm soil temperatures. As a result, this can make it a bit more difficult to grow.
Once harvested, SE varieties last for over a week in the refrigerator.
11 Top-Rated Sweet Corn Selections to Grow at Home
The great news is that when it comes to corn, there are some a-maize-ing varieties to choose from.
1. Ambrosia Hybrid
Yep, that’s right – ambrosia like the custard. And it’s not for nothing that this SE variety is named after the delicious sweet dessert.
This plump yellow and white variety is super sweet, and perfect for home growing. Plant ‘Ambrosia’ in full sunlight to get the most out of this yummy cultivar.
This variety takes 75 days to reach maturity. It produces 8-inch-long ears on 6 ½-foot-tall plants.
2. Blue Hopi
This heirloom SH2 variety has 5-foot stalks that produce 7-inch, very dark blue ears that are highly decorative.
It was traditionally believed that, when eaten before a long journey, the consumer was guaranteed a safe return. So, if you are planning any long trips, perhaps this is a good variety to try.
Mature in 100-110 days, ‘Blue Hopi’ provides large ears reaching between 8-9 inches in length, with a sweet flavor. It can either be eaten when harvested or kept to dry and be used to make flour for tortillas.
3. Golden Bantam
Burpee boldly states that this is the variety which made yellow sweet corn popular. Apparently, when Burpee first introduced it in 1902, people only wanted white kernels, the color that signified a high-quality product at the time.
But since it was bred, ‘Golden Bantam’ quickly gained popularity thanks to the ease with which it sprouts in cool soil early in the season. This is an SU type.
The stalks only reach about 5 feet in height and often bear two 5 ½ to 6 ½-inch-long ears apiece, but for old-fashioned flavor, it’s unbeatable.
4. Honey Select Hybrid
An AAS Winner for 2001, this “triplesweet” variety produces ears that are a hybrid of 75% SE and 25% SH2, providing a rich and sweet flavor that is hard to rival.
Producing ears between 8 and 9 inches long, ‘Honey Select’ Hybrid is ready to harvest in 80 days and grows on stalks that will reach up to six feet in height. It grows best in full sun in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-11.
5. Jubilee Hybrid
This popular variety is as beautiful as it is bountiful, producing large yields with ears 8 1/2 to 9 inches long, with 18 to 20 rows of bright yellow kernels.
This type is deliciously sweet, and ready for the picking in 90 days. It’s perfect for processing and freezing, although can also be eaten fresh.
This SU variety grows six-foot-tall stalks, and it thrives in full sun conditions with slightly acidic soils.
6. Nirvana Hybrid
‘Nirvana’ Hybrid offers the best of all the worlds, being bi-color yellow and white, sweet, vigorous, easy to grow, and beautiful, all wrapped up in one neat little husk. This variety is also particularly high yielding, perfect for a large family or for sharing with your neighbors.
Although technically an SH2 variety, ‘Nirvana’ Hybrid kernels are plumper than your usual SH2, and so your harvest will be more like an extra-sweet SE variety.
It takes 72 days to reach full maturity and does best in full sun conditions.
7. Peaches and Cream
Can’t decide if you prefer white or yellow kernels? Well, this SE variety produces a high yield of both!
Reaching maturity in 80-83 days, ‘Peaches and Cream’ stays fresh for longer than other types. Designed with markets and roadside stands in mind, it is also well suited to home gardens.
The stalks produce large, 8-inch ears and it does best in full sun, in Zones 3-11.
8. Picasso Hybrid
This hybrid, described as a “visual stunner and culinary wonder,” makes a beautiful addition to any garden.
With its deep purple stalks and husks contrasting against white and yellow ears, this crop can be enjoyed both in the garden and on the plate, or as a festive holiday decoration.
Best roasted, baked, or boiled, this variety reaches maturity in 75 days and thrives in full sun conditions.
9. Ruby Queen Hybrid
A hybrid SE sweet corn, ‘Ruby Queen’ certainly lives up to its name. A deep shade of vibrant red, this type is as beautiful as it is delicious, with sweet, tender kernels.
‘Ruby Queen’ grows well in full sun in rich, fertile, well-drained soil. It can either be picked a bit earlier when it’s blush-red for maximum sweetness, or you can let it ripen to fully develop its rich, old-fashioned corn flavor. This variety is ready to harvest in 75 days and stalks grow to 7 feet tall.
With ears that reach 8 inches long, sporting 18 rows of juicy, very tender kernels, there’s more than enough to enjoy with this variety. It’s recommended to steam or microwave this corn to make the most of both its rich taste and color.
As an added bonus, the red tassels and stalks also make fantastic autumn decorations.
10. Silver Queen Hybrid
Rivalling the ‘Ruby Queen’ throne, ‘Silver Queen’ is a popular late-season SU variety that is very much worth the wait.
A brilliant bright white, this type is highly productive and flavorsome, and has been a firm favorite for many years. Although sometimes a little bit more delicate than some of the others to grow, this is definitely one to consider for your garden.
Producing large ears between 8 and 9 inches long with 14-16 rows of white kernels, this variety grows stalks up to 8 feet tall, and is ready to harvest in 92 days.
11. Stowells Evergreen
This heirloom, open-pollinated variety comes with an interesting story.
Named after its breeder, Nathaniel Stowell worked for decades to develop the variety before selling just 2 ears to a “friend” for $4 for “private use.” This “friend” then made his fortune with the seed, selling it for $20,000 and introducing it to the market.
And it’s certainly not hard to see why this cultivar took off! A firm favorite since its development in the 1800s, this type shows no sign of dropping out of fashion any time soon.
An SU variety, ‘Stowells Evergreen’ is hardy and productive, whilst at the same time producing very tender and sugary white kernels. The ears also stay fresh in the field for a long time – hence the “Evergreen” part of this cultivar’s name.
This type matures slowly, requiring 95-100 days to harvest. Ears are about 7-8 inches long, and the stalks grow to about 7 1/2 feet high. This variety does best in full sunlight.
There’s Certainly a Corn for You
In corn-clusion, this is a beautiful, vibrant, and diverse crop that definitely deserves a place in your garden! With the diversity of seeds on offer, you’re sure to find the ideal variety for you.
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© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photo via Burpee, Eden Brothers, and True Leaf Market. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Natasha Foote
With a passion for soil health and growing trees, Natasha Foote is a biologist who was hit with a serious case of green fingers, and decided to swap sterile laboratories for getting her hands dirty in the soil. Formerly a farmer and researcher working with the agroforestry project Mazi Farm in Greece, when she wasn't working on the farm, she was busy studying soil biology under the microscope. Now, you can find her in the south of France where, in between enjoying all the fresh peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries that the area has to offer, she's working on various agricultural projects whilst writing about all things green.