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 '13 at 7:58
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    I'm talking about the corn you'd find in a bag of Orville Redenbacher's or something like that – Throsby May 8 '13 at 13:44
  • So pop corn, then... – Flimzy May 8 '13 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. – Brōtsyorfuzthrāx Sep 16 '16 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). – Brōtsyorfuzthrāx Sep 16 '16 at 2:38

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.

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    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 '13 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.

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  • 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 '13 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 '13 at 17:22
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    2 miles - boggles the mind, doesn't it?!? No wonder so many organic growers have such problems with GMO cross-contamination. – michelle May 9 '13 at 18:27
  • You'd probably expect a 10% drop in productivity when planting F2 seeds ( the kernels from a F1 hybrid corn ). – Graham Chiu Mar 12 '16 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 '16 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!

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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!

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  • The question is about commercial popcorn you buy for popping (not for just any corn, and not seed packets of corn marketed for gardeners). – Brōtsyorfuzthrāx Mar 12 '16 at 8:24
  • Although kernel usually refers to a seed with the hull removed, with corn, the seeds are called kernels. – Graham Chiu Mar 12 '16 at 21:21

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.

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  • Keep us posted here if it works! – J. Chomel Jun 20 '17 at 6:41

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