How To Plant Corn From Seedlings [ Full Guide ]

Corn is a versatile and popular crop that can be grown in a variety of climates. Planting corn from seedlings can be an effective way to jump-start the growing process and ensure a successful harvest. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of planting corn from seedlings, from selecting the right time and location to preparing the soil, choosing the right seedlings, and planting in rows or hills.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Corn From Seedlings

To plant corn from seedlings, follow these steps:

  1. Select the right time and location for planting.
  2. Prepare the soil by tilling and adding organic matter.
  3. Choose healthy seedlings from a reputable nursery or start your own from seeds.
  4. Plant the seedlings in rows or hills, ensuring proper spacing.
  5. Water the seedlings and provide ongoing care as they grow.

Now, let’s delve deeper into each of these steps to ensure a successful corn crop.

Selecting The Right Time And Location


Timing is crucial when it comes to planting corn from seedlings. Corn is a warm-season crop, so it should be planted after the last frost date when the soil has warmed up to at least 60°F (15°C). In most regions, this means planting in late spring or early summer. Planting too early when the soil is still cold can lead to poor germination and weak seedling growth.


Choose a planting location that receives full sun for at least 6-8 hours per day. Corn thrives in well-draining soil, so avoid low-lying areas where water may accumulate. Additionally, consider the wind patterns in your area, as corn is pollinated by wind and should be planted in a location where the wind can easily distribute pollen from tassels to silks.

Preparing The Soil For Seedlings

Testing And Amending The Soil

Before planting, it’s essential to test the soil to assess its nutrient levels and pH. Most corn varieties prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0-6.8. You can obtain a soil test kit from a garden center or send a soil sample to a local agricultural extension office for analysis. Based on the results, you may need to amend the soil by adding lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower it.

Tilling And Adding Organic Matter

Once the soil is tested and amended, it’s time to prepare the bed for the seedlings. Begin by tilling the soil to a depth of 8-10 inches to loosen it and create a suitable environment for root growth. Incorporate organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure into the soil to improve its structure, drainage, and fertility.

Creating Raised Beds (Optional)

In some cases, creating raised beds can be beneficial for planting corn. Raised beds provide excellent drainage and warm up more quickly in the spring, which can be advantageous for corn’s early growth. If you opt to create raised beds, construct them to be approximately 12 inches high and 3-4 feet wide, with pathways between each bed for easy access.

Choosing The Right Seedlings

Purchasing Seedlings

When purchasing corn seedlings, select healthy, vibrant plants from a reputable nursery or garden center. Look for seedlings with dark green leaves, sturdy stems, and a well-developed root system. Avoid seedlings that appear wilted, discolored, or stunted, as they may struggle to establish themselves after planting.

Starting Seedlings From Seed

Alternatively, you can start your own corn seedlings from seed indoors approximately 2-4 weeks before the expected planting date. Use biodegradable pots or seedling trays filled with a high-quality seed starting mix. Plant the seeds 1 inch deep and keep them consistently moist in a warm, well-lit area until they germinate. Once the seedlings have developed a couple of true leaves, they can be transplanted into the garden.

Hardening Off Seedlings

Whether you purchase seedlings or start your own from seed, it’s crucial to acclimate them to outdoor conditions before planting. This process, known as hardening off, involves gradually exposing the seedlings to outdoor elements like sunlight, wind, and fluctuating temperatures. Begin by placing the seedlings outdoors in a sheltered location for a few hours each day, gradually increasing their exposure over the course of 7-10 days.

Planting In Rows Or Hills

Spacing And Planting Depth

When planting corn from seedlings, spacing is critical to ensure proper pollination and healthy growth. Whether you choose to plant in rows or hills, allow for adequate space between the seedlings. Plant each seedling 12-15 inches apart within the row, with rows spaced 30-36 inches apart. If planting in hills, space the hills 30-36 inches apart, with 3-4 seedlings per hill.

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Planting In Rows

To plant corn seedlings in rows, use a hoe or trowel to create a shallow trench along the length of the row. Place the seedlings in the trench, gently firm the soil around the roots, and water them thoroughly. Ensure that the top of each seedling’s root ball is level with the surrounding soil to prevent drying out or rotting.

Planting In Hills

If you opt to plant in hills, create small mounds of soil approximately 12 inches in diameter and 3-4 inches high. Space the mounds according to the recommended distance and plant 3-4 seedlings at the top of each mound. Press the soil firmly around the seedlings and water them well to promote establishment.

Mulching And Fertilizing

After planting, consider applying a layer of organic mulch such as straw or shredded leaves around the seedlings to help retain soil moisture and suppress weed growth. Additionally, a side-dressing of compost or a balanced fertilizer can be applied around the base of the seedlings to provide a nutrient boost as they grow.

Planting corn from seedlings can be a rewarding and productive endeavor when approached with the right techniques and attention to detail. By selecting the right time and location, preparing the soil, choosing healthy seedlings, and planting with proper spacing, you can set the stage for a successful corn harvest. Remember to provide ongoing care, including regular watering, weed control, and monitoring for pests and diseases, to ensure the vigorous growth and development of your corn plants. With patience and dedication, you’ll soon be enjoying the satisfaction of homegrown sweet corn on your dinner table.

Proper Spacing For Corn Seedlings

Growing corn from seedlings is a great way to ensure a strong and healthy crop of corn. By using seedlings, you can control the conditions that the young plants are exposed to and give them a head start in their growth.

Corn is a plant that requires sufficient space to grow and develop properly. When planting corn seedlings, it is crucial to provide them with adequate room to establish their root systems and allow for optimal air circulation. The recommended spacing for corn seedlings is around 12-15 inches apart within a row, with rows spaced 30-36 inches apart. This spacing allows the plants to receive enough sunlight and nutrients and minimizes competition among them.

Preparing Seedlings For Transplanting

Before transplanting your corn seedlings, it is essential to prepare them properly to ensure a successful transfer to the garden. Here are some steps to follow:

1. Harden Off The Seedlings

Seedlings started indoors or in a greenhouse need to be gradually exposed to outdoor conditions. This process is known as hardening off. A week before transplanting, place the seedlings outdoors in a sheltered area for about a couple of hours each day. Gradually increase the time and exposure to direct sunlight over the week. This will help the seedlings adjust to outdoor temperatures, wind, and the intensity of sunlight they will experience in the garden.

2. Transplant Into Larger Containers

A few days before transplanting, move the corn seedlings to larger containers to allow their root systems to develop further. Transplant them into individual pots or cell trays filled with well-draining potting soil. This will give the seedlings plenty of space to grow and will prevent their roots from becoming root-bound.

3. Maintain Optimal Soil Moisture

During the week before transplanting, keep the soil in the containers consistently moist but not soggy. Avoid overwatering, as it may lead to root rot and weaken the seedlings. Adequate soil moisture will ensure healthy, vigorous plants ready for transplanting.

Transplanting Corn Seedlings

After preparing the seedlings, it’s time to transplant them into the garden. Follow these steps to ensure a successful transplant:

1. Choose The Right Location

Corn thrives in areas with full sun exposure, preferably receiving at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Select a spot in your garden that is well-drained and does not get waterlogged. Avoid planting corn in low-lying areas that tend to collect water, as this can lead to root rot and other issues.

2. Prepare The Soil

Before transplanting, prepare the soil by loosening it with a garden fork or tiller. Remove any weeds or debris from the planting area. Adding organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, will enrich the soil and provide essential nutrients for the growing corn.

3. Dig Proper Planting Holes

Dig holes for each corn seedling, spacing them according to the recommended spacing mentioned earlier. The holes should be deep enough so that when the seedlings are transplanted, they are at the same depth they were in the original containers. Planting the seedlings at the correct depth will promote a strong root system and healthy growth.

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4. Transplant The Seedlings

Carefully remove the seedlings from their containers, gently loosening the roots if they are root-bound. Place each seedling in a planting hole, ensuring it is straight and upright. Backfill the hole with soil, gently firming it around the seedling to eliminate any air pockets. Repeat the process for all the seedlings.

5. Mulch The Planting Area

Mulching the planting area around the seedlings is beneficial in several ways. It helps to retain soil moisture, suppress weed growth, and regulate soil temperature. Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or shredded leaves, around the seedlings, being careful not to bury the plants’ stems.

Watering And Fertilizing Seedlings

To ensure healthy growth and development, proper watering and fertilization are essential for corn seedlings. Here are some guidelines to follow:

1. Watering

After transplanting, water the corn seedlings thoroughly to help them establish in the garden. Ensure that the soil is evenly moist, but not waterlogged, for the first few weeks. Avoid overhead watering, as it can increase the risk of diseases. Instead, water at the base of the plants, aiming for the root zone. As the seedlings grow, continue to provide regular irrigation, aiming for approximately 1-1.5 inches of water per week. Adjust the watering schedule based on rainfall and the moisture needs of your specific growing conditions.

2. Fertilizing

Corn is a heavy feeder and requires sufficient nutrients for optimal growth. Before transplanting the seedlings, incorporate a balanced organic fertilizer into the soil according to package instructions. This will provide a good foundation of nutrients for the plants. Once the corn seedlings are established, side-dress them with additional fertilizer when they reach a height of 6-8 inches. Apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, such as blood meal or well-composted manure, to meet the plant’s high nitrogen requirements. Follow the recommended application rates to avoid over-fertilizing, which can burn the plants’ roots.

By following these guidelines, you can successfully plant corn from seedlings and ensure a healthy and robust corn crop. Remember to provide proper spacing, prepare the seedlings for transplanting, and transplant them carefully. Provide adequate water and fertilization as the corn plants grow, and monitor their progress regularly. With proper care and attention, your corn plants will thrive and reward you with delicious, homegrown corn.

Protecting Seedlings From Pests And Diseases

Before we begin, it is important to note that corn takes up a lot of space in your garden and needs plenty of sunlight, water, and nutrients. You will need to choose a location that gets full sunlight for most of the day and has well-draining soil. Additionally, corn must be planted in blocks rather than rows, as it is wind-pollinated. This means that if you plant the corn in a row, it may receive pollen from a neighboring variety, leading to a less desirable crop.

Seedlings are especially vulnerable to pests and diseases, so it is important to take steps to protect them. Here are some strategies for keeping your corn seedlings healthy and pest-free:

1. Use Natural Pest Control Methods

Try to use natural pest control methods whenever possible. Planting companion crops, such as beans or squash, can help deter pests that are attracted to corn. Additionally, consider using natural pest control methods, such as neem oil or diatomaceous earth, to keep pests at bay.

2. Practice Crop Rotation

Crop rotation can help prevent diseases from building up in your garden soil over time. Try not to grow corn or other related crops in the same spot for more than two years in a row.

3. Keep The Area Clean And Tidy

Keeping the area around your corn seedlings clean and tidy can also help prevent pest and disease problems. Remove any dead or damaged foliage regularly and dispose of it properly.

4. Scout For Pests And Diseases Regularly

Finally, it is important to regularly scout for pests and diseases. Early detection can help you address the problem before it becomes too severe. Look for signs of damage to the foliage, discoloration of the leaves, or evidence of pests such as aphids or earwigs.

Caring For Seedlings As They Grow

Once your corn seedlings are established, it is important to provide them with the care they need to thrive. Here are some tips for caring for your corn seedlings:

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1. Water Regularly

Corn needs consistent moisture to grow. Make sure to water your seedlings regularly, especially during hot and dry weather. Avoid getting the leaves wet as this can encourage diseases. Instead, aim to water the soil directly at the base of the plant.

2. Fertilize As Needed

Corn is a heavy feeder and requires plenty of nutrients to grow strong and healthy. Consider using a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to provide the plants with the nutrients they need. Follow the directions on the packaging carefully and avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to problems like burned foliage or stunted growth.

3. Provide Support As Needed

As your corn plants grow taller, they may need support to keep them from falling over. Consider using stakes or cages to provide support for the plants. Be sure to install these supports early in the growing process to avoid damaging the roots.

4. Mulch To Retain Moisture And Control Weeds

Mulching around your corn plants can help retain moisture in the soil and control weeds. Consider using a natural mulch, such as straw, leaves, or grass clippings.

Harvesting Corn From Seedlings

Once your corn plants are mature, it is time to harvest the ears of corn. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Monitor the ears of corn regularly. They should turn a deep shade of yellow and feel firm to the touch when they are ready to harvest.
  2. Hold the ear of corn at the base and twist it downward until it snaps off the plant.
  3. Remove the husks and silk from the ear of corn.
  4. Use a knife to cut off the kernels. Be sure to cut as close to the cob as possible to avoid leaving any behind.

Troubleshooting Common Issues With Corn Seedlings

Even with the best care, problems can still arise when growing corn from seedlings. Here are some common issues and how to address them:

1. Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing leaves can be a sign of over-watering or under-fertilizing. Check the soil moisture and nutrient levels and adjust accordingly.

2. Stunted Growth

Stunted growth can be caused by a lack of nutrients or an infestation of pests. Make sure your plants are getting enough nutrients and monitor for pests.

3. Uneven Ears Of Corn

Uneven ears of corn can be caused by a lack of pollination. To ensure proper pollination, it is important to plant corn in blocks rather than rows.


Planting corn from seedlings is a great way to ensure a successful harvest of this nutritious and delicious grain. With proper care and attention, your corn seedlings can grow into strong and healthy plants that produce plenty of tasty ears of corn. Remember to keep an eye out for pests and diseases, water and fertilize regularly, and provide the plants with the support they need as they grow. With these tips in mind, you’ll be enjoying fresh, delicious corn from your garden in no time.


What Is The Best Time To Plant Corn From Seedlings?

The ideal time to plant corn from seedlings is when the soil has warmed up to at least 60°F, usually around late spring or early summer.

How Deep Should I Plant Corn Seedlings?

Corn seedlings should be planted about 1 inch deep in the soil. Planting too shallow may expose the roots to sunlight and planting too deep may interfere with emergence.

How Far Apart Should I Space The Corn Seedlings?

Corn seedlings should be spaced about 8-12 inches apart in a row, with about 24-36 inches between rows. This spacing allows for proper air circulation and room for the plants to grow.

Should I Add Fertilizer Or Compost When Planting Corn Seedlings?

It is recommended to mix in some compost or a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10, into the soil before planting the corn seedlings. This will provide the necessary nutrients for healthy plant growth.

How Often Should I Water The Corn Seedlings?

Corn seedlings should be watered deeply and consistently, about 1 inch of water per week. However, the frequency of watering may vary depending on weather conditions and soil moisture levels. It is important to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged.