It doesn't seem like there's any process that would kill the kernels, as they're just being dried out. So would it be theoretically possible to grow the kernels into full corn plants? Would there be any difference between the kernels found in commercial, microwavable, bagged popcorn and corn kernels sold specifically for planting?

  • Are you talking about pop corn kernels sold for planting? Or sweet or other varieties of corn?
    – Flimzy
    May 8, 2013 at 7:58
  • 3
    I'm talking about the corn you'd find in a bag of Orville Redenbacher's or something like that
    – Throsby
    May 8, 2013 at 13:44
  • So pop corn, then...
    – Flimzy
    May 8, 2013 at 18:26
  • I would think that some kinds of it should grow. However, we spilled loads of commercial corn kernels on the ground and none of them grew this spring. I planted many Glass Gem corn seeds (meant to be planted), and every single one seemed to germinate (and very quickly). I don't know if the commercial corn was sterile, treated with heat, or if it just needed something more, but even without proper care, you'd think at least one seed out of a whole lot would have grown. Sep 16, 2016 at 2:33
  • Of course even garden seeds are commercial. What I meant in my comment wasn't the variety or type of corn (but rather popcorn sold to be used for food instead of for planting). Sep 16, 2016 at 2:38

6 Answers 6


It is possible to grow plants from the kernels you get for making popcorn, but remember this is a corn that isn't any good as sweet corn. it it very starchy and not sweet. it would only be good to use for more popcorn.

Here is a quick tutorial on germinating the seed.

In essence, what they recommend is the following:

  1. Get the plain kernels for home made popcorn from the market (unflavoured).
  2. Place the kernels in between damp sheets of kitchen paper to germinate.
  3. The kernels that have germinated should then be planted out into the ground in blocks of at least 3 x 3 (as corn is wind pollinated) and spaced at roughly 1' apart.
  4. Keep watered in dry spells.
  5. Leave the ears of corn on the plants until the leaves surrounding the corn have browned.
  6. Bring the ears in to dry out further.
  7. Once fully dried, twist off the kernels to use as you would with store bought.

N.B. A great tip, if your patch suffers from rodent or squirrel attack (they do love corn), is to place empty soda bottles over the ears of corn with ventilation holes punched into it so that you don't encourage mildew to attack the corn.

  • 1
    This is a great answer, but what I'm looking for if is a bag of popcorn could be used to propagate more corn. If I could open a bag of "Light Butter Popcorn" from, say, PopSecret and grow some from that.
    – Throsby
    May 18, 2013 at 3:10

It is possible to do, but your results will vary. The stuff you buy for food popcorn isn't specifically grown for seed; it may be an F1 hybrid and the generation that you grow out may not produce the same as the parents. (This is probably what happened to @michelle -- she mentions that the results were unpredictable.) If you just want to try it as an experiment, go for it, but if you actually want popcorn that will grow predictably, you can buy popcorn varieties, e.g. Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored Popcorn.

  • Baby rice is an open pollinated heirloom, which is why I was surprised. I was thinking maybe it was a cross-pollination issue, though?
    – michelle
    May 9, 2013 at 15:40
  • Yes, my guess would cross-pollination. Corn grown for seed wants to have an isolation distance of 2 miles (!), so when growing for seed you'd want to bag the ears (and possibly the tassels). This would be a huge hassle if you're growing for food, so I'd guess that grocery store corn will all be cross-pollination "contaminated".
    – bstpierre
    May 9, 2013 at 17:22
  • 1
    2 miles - boggles the mind, doesn't it?!? No wonder so many organic growers have such problems with GMO cross-contamination.
    – michelle
    May 9, 2013 at 18:27
  • You'd probably expect a 10% drop in productivity when planting F2 seeds ( the kernels from a F1 hybrid corn ). Mar 12, 2016 at 21:23
  • @michelle some crops is worse than that. It is why some plants can't be shipped to this or that whole state in the USA because your trees or plants can affect commercial growers of whatever in that state.
    – Escoce
    Mar 13, 2016 at 2:46

Yes, it should be possible. I've never tried Orville Redenbacher, but I have grown other grocery store popcorn and it grew just fine. The only problem for me was that the results were kind of unpredictable. The package I grew from said it was baby rice popcorn. I've grown baby rice before, and expected the plants to be 5 feet tall or so. The plants that grew from the grocery store seeds were closer to 10 feet tall - very surprising!


I germinated all the popcorn kernels I tried. I will see if they grow into corn stalks. They were organic popcorn from the grocery store. I put a folded up paper towel in the bottom of a one cup measuring cup and soaked it with water. I put the corn in and put saran wrap on top in a warm place and they germinated in one day. I planted them into a peat pellet. Now waiting for more growth.

  • Keep us posted here if it works!
    – J. Chomel
    Jun 20, 2017 at 6:41

The quick answer is: It depends, but you probably won't get the same product as the one you bought.

The other answers really do a good job breaking this down. Growing something from a commercial product would come with two questions that you likely don't know the answer to from the packaging.

The first is: Did the seeds you bought come from hybrid plants? For corn specifically, the answer is probably yes. Most conventional, commercial growers use hybrid seeds because they have higher yields and since they are in the business of producing big yields, they likely are. When you plant the seeds of hybrid plants they "don't grow true" to the original plant which means that the offspring will be different from the parents - they be weaker, smaller, more susceptible to disease, or actually better! but likely worse.

However, if you bought from a grower who used an heirloom or landrace variety, this may in fact "grow true". That is, resulting (corn) plant would grow just like its parent plant(s) without the problems that come with F2 (or second generation) hybrid seeds.

The second factor is: Were the seeds irradiated? This is probably not the case for seeds (corn) that was grown in your country of origin, but may be the case for imported crops. Radiation is used on some imports with the express goal of killing the seed/any bacteria/fungus/disease etc that it may harbor. This would kill the corn seed and may mean that it won't grow.

The easiest, best way to grow popcorn generation after generation would be to choose an heirloom variety from the internet or from someone in your community who already has expertise and can suggest a good variety for your growing conditions. And remember, corn is wind pollinated so you have to grow a 10ft x 10ft plot (~3m x 3m) to ensure good pollination.


Corn is a kernel not a seed. However, it can be planted in the ground to grow corn stalks. My friends have been able to grow corn this way. Have fun gardening!

  • The question is about commercial popcorn you buy for popping (not for just any corn, and not seed packets of corn marketed for gardeners). Mar 12, 2016 at 8:24
  • Although kernel usually refers to a seed with the hull removed, with corn, the seeds are called kernels. Mar 12, 2016 at 21:21

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