Short stalked sweet corn varieties

I grew a couple of varieties of sweet corn last year. I think they were Kandy Korn and Honey and Cream, it was available locally for a good price, and I am not that picky on variety. They grew over 7’ tall. As the ears were getting close to maturity, we had 2 pretty big storms roll in a few days apart. One with a south wind, the next from the north. These wind storms decimated my tall corn stalks.

If I can grow stronger, more stout, short stalked varieties, maybe I can get a harvest this year. I may also put up snow fence around the plot to help reduce wind damage to plants.

Any suggestions for short stalked varieties that are good eating? We don’t need the super sweet kinds, but I think in years past my favorite was Peaches and Cream (se).

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The very old fashioned “Golden Bantam” 8-row corn is sturdy…but it’s not going to have all the super sweetness of the modern varieties.

There are also some varieties that have larger brace roots and thicker shucks, but it’s been so long ago I don’t recall the brand/varieties. The thicker shucks help with borers if you’re going organic.

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There are a couple of cultural tips that will help with this issue. First don’t plant too thick. Allow about two sq ft per plant. This will reduce the height and allow a thicker stalk. Secondly if you mound soil up around the trunk it will allow more brace roots higher up on the stalk. Timing is important. Start mounding up the soil at about 18 inches height and again a week or two later. Mounding the soil helps a lot.

Planting in 30-36 inch rows will make the mounding easier. Space the plants about 8 inches apart in the row. I over plant and then thin to the strongest best positioned plants at about 8 inches height.

A wind break as you suggest is a great idea.


I don’t know of any varieties of sweet corn that have shorter and sturdier stalks as you describe. There is a limit to how much cellulose a corn plant can produce. That said, Cherokee Squaw is a non-sweet corn that has much sturdier than normal stalks. It shouldn’t be too difficult to breed a sturdier stalked variety than is commonly available today.

As fruitnut says, most of it is cultural. Hill up the plants to help support the stalk. Also, I’ve found it very helpful to use other plants as a wind break. I plant pole beans on one side or the other of the corn and use a very sturdy trellis. The beans tend to protect the corn from lodging.

For good corn flavor, se+ varieties usually win for home gardeners. Silver King is a very good white se+ variety that is commonly available. There are quite a few varieties that are standard se meaning only one copy of the se gene. These tend to be a bit less finicky than the homozygous se+ varieties. I don’t like standard se because the tender coriopsis (skin/pericarp) and enhanced sweetness are both reduced significantly.

There are tons of supersweet varieties (sh2 gene) but in my opinion, they are not very good for home gardeners. They are often grown for market sweet corn because they will hold for 5 or 6 days after picking without losing sweetness. Synergistic varieties are all the rage in catalogs today. They combine a group of sweetness genes such as su, se, sh2, du, etc to boost sweetness and reduce problems caused by pollination with other corn types.

Interesting trivia, corn is one of the very few vegetables grown where pollination causes changes in flavor and other traits in the year it is grown. This is because the seed is eaten. By comparison, beans do not show changes until the seed are grown the next year after pollination.

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I had that one on my list of possible choices. I guess I won’t know if I like the non-se, sh2, etc types unless I try them.

Thank you for this. I did mound soil around the bases, but not until they were over 3’ tall.
I think I planted mine in rows 3’ apart, and thinned within the rows to 12" apart. I wondered if thinning them to keep them closer together than 12" would help them support each other?

This is a good idea. I do plant pole beans and trellis them on 16’ cattle panels, although they are only 5’ tall. I don’t have any in the new plot I created for the sweet corn, but I could set some up. That’s a great idea.
I had no understanding of the sh2, se, se+ differences, so I appreciate your descriptions. Like I mentioned, Peaches and Cream was our standard choice for growing at home because seed was readily available at the local farm store, it grew well, and we liked the taste!

You know how you can cut plants to reduce their height, and cause them to flower at a shorter stature than they would if they weren’t pruned down? Would this be possible with corn? Say I grew Silver King, but went through the rows and pruned off the top 6" before they started forming ears, would that effectively reduce total plant height?

For other reasons, I’ve topped corn in the past. It does not help much with lodging. Most of the wind resistance of the plant is in the leaves which are mostly below the top.

If interested in why I would be topping corn plants, I was doing controlled pollination to make homemade hybrids. I have a relatively stable F5 line now from a cross of Cherokee Squaw X high methionine line out of USDA. It is available from Sandhill Preservation this year.

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Ok, that makes sense. But if my wind breaks (snow fence or pole beans) are only 5’ tall max, then you don’t think I would have trouble with 7’ - 9’ corn plants getting blown over?

I think the sustained winds that did my corn last summer in were only 20mph, but we had a microburst that shook the whole house, rattled the windows and was quit explosive. I don’t know what the top wind speed was in that gust but it flattened the corn.
What is your new cross named? I was looking through all of Sandhill’s sweet corn line to see if any might suit my purposes.

It is not a matter of not having problems. It is more a matter of taking appropriate precautions to limit wind damage. If you combine a windbreak of pole beans with hilling up the plants and grow a naturally short variety, lodging can be kept to a minimum except in extremely high wind.

Here is a very valuable suggestion for growing beans on cattle panels. Put up t-posts every 8 feet, lift the panels up about a foot off the ground, and attach them to the t-posts. Plant the beans beneath the fence. The beans grow up and attach to the cattle panel with zero problems. Since there is a gap beneath the cattle panel, hoeing and weeding are much easier. Added benefit, the bean fence is now 6 feet high instead of 5 giving more protection from wind for the corn. Caution that you need at least 6 1/2 foot tall t-posts or taller. I have also used this setup to support tomatoes. Just plant tomatoes alternating on both sides and walk by with some hay twine to tie the tomato plants to the cattle panel.


Trinity grows 5 feet tall. There is another if I can remember the name. The ears are also smaller. I grow it because it works better as an earlier choice in my relatively cool, short season maritime NW climate. SE+ which I also like.

Edit: Early Sunglo grows 4 1/2 feet tall. Also got it because it tolerates my climate. Again, the ears are smaller. I think it is a “regular sweet” type, not SE.


The corn I sent to Sandhill is under the Dent category and is listed as “Chicken”. It can be used straight as chicken feed and the chickens will maintain egg laying and the eggs will have high fertility. Other varieties of corn do not have enough methionine to maintain both egg laying and fertility. Which brings up something interesting. Corn is commonly used in commercial chicken feed but has to be mixed with soybean meal or another protein source plus synthetic methionine to make it a good feed for chickens. That is a problem for organic growers because they have had to get a waiver to add synthetic methionine for the last 20 or 30 years. My reason for making the cross was to make it easier to feed my chickens with a good source of methionine with less reliance on commercial laying feed.


ps. There was a windstorm in Iowa, and it may have been in KS, of over 100 mph winds…I don’t think any corn could have taken 100 mph wind and not blown over.


The derecho wind in Iowa hit Glenn hard at Sandhill. He had tree limbs blown several hundred feet across plots of vegetables being grown for seed. All of his corn was laid down but stood back up over the next week or two. He managed a crop of most things even with the damage.

Glenn sells Yukon Supreme which is a very short 3 to 4 ft tall standard su sweet corn. I don’t normally recommend it except in very short season climates. It might be an alternative if you are losing corn to wind every year.

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“Double Standard” could be the variety you are looking for. It stays pretty short and is always my earliest sweet corn. It is an old variety, so not super sweet but tastes great and since it blooms so early you can leave a few stalks and use them for seed.
Never had “Double Standard” fall in a storm


Here in TN, I grow Ambrosia… which is a bi color very tasty sweet corn.
I have tried other varieties (including incredible, peaches n cream) but found them to be somewhat flavorless compared to Ambrosia.

Below is description from Burpee…
Ambrosia isn’t just a name, it’s the perfect description for this white and yellow checkered sugar-enhanced sweet corn. The 8" long ears on 6 1/2’ tall plants are plump, sweet and ready for summer picnics.

And the 6 1/2’ tall description is pretty much what they do in my garden.

We often have mid summer very windy thunderstorms… and I have had my ambrosia blown over a few times in the past.

This past spring I was watching the Hoss Tools guy, showing how he fertilizes and “Hills” his sweet corn… he basically fertilized (side dressed) and then hilled… turning dirt from the space between the rows, up onto the base of the corn plants.

When my ambrosia was about a foot tall, I did that (using mostly blood meal for fertilizer)… and then 3-4 weeks later did that again… then 3-4 weeks later, again…

We had some rip roaring storms when my corn plants were full height, with tassels on… but with the nice accumulation of hilling at the base of the plants, none blew over.

PS… I plant mine on 30" row spacing and had excellent pollination, full to the tip ears.

I learned something new last year, that I will do from now on with my sweet corn planting… side dress fertilize and HILL. I not only had my best crop of ambrosia ever… but not one single stalk got blown over.

Below is a pic of some of the earlier ears, with some Big Beef tomatoes.

PS after my 3rd round of side dressing with fertilizer and hilling… I had accumulated 6-8" of soil up around the bottom of the corn plants. After harvesting, when I went to pull those plants for composting… they had 3 levels of roots developed… very bottom, mid and again just a bit higher. So each time I hilled, they put out more roots up higher on the stalk. That added a lot to the stability of the plant, and resisting those high winds and soaking rains.



I agree. Thanks to all of you, I will have a better plan in place for this year. I will try to combine the windbreaks (maybe both snow fence and pole beans, not sure), time appropriate hilling, and choosing shorter varieties. Looks like I have some good options now!

I will look into each variety you all suggested, thanks so much for taking the time!

My next question was going to be how much soil do you try to hill up each time, but you answered it for me already. I can see where that would help a lot. I got a second layer of roots to develop after hilling, but I started hilling too late. Many of the stalks were uprooted completely, while some were broken - the top half broken and bent over, so they could not be stood back up.

Now I have to remember to keep some room around the perimeter of this plot to run hot wire, because the coons will be back this summer too…

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I was considering trying 2 to 4 varieties in a plot roughly 22’x30’. But perhaps I need to plant all the same variety in this area?
How far apart would you recommend planting different corn varieties if you don’t want any cross pollination affecting flavor?

So lodging means a plant that tends to go off center or fall over? I never found a good definition of this word?

I grew Honey Queen or Snow Queen, some kind of Queen, white corn. Many fell over, but just staking them back up worked fine. All produced corn. It was awesome too!

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Lodging means a corn plant that falls over so the ear cannot be mechanically harvested. It can be caused by a weak stalk which breaks as it dries at the end of the season or it can be caused by wind that blows the stalk over at the root level. Either way, it is referred to as lodging in the older literature (pre-1920).

While they advertise synergistic and augmented varieties as being able to grow next to other types, in reality, flavor is always affected to some degree. I’m not a corn expert so feel free to take this up with someone more knowledgeable. My approach is to grow only se+ varieties for sweet corn as that is my preferred type. If I grow dent corn for chicken feed, I plant it 3 weeks after the sweet corn so there is no crossing because they tassel at different times.

su = normal sugary, the oldest form of sweet corn and still commonly grown
se = single copy of Sugar Enhanced gene combined with 2 copies of su, increases sugar by 25% on average
se+ = homozygous for both su and se (chromosomes 4 and 2 respectively), increases sweetness and coriopsis tenderness
sh2 = homozygous for sh2 which can quadruple sweetness compared to normal su depending on modifier genes
synergistic and augmented are various combinations of sh2 with su and se. There are several more genes involved depending on which company developed the variety. See for one sweet corn breeder. Several years ago, mesamaize was bought out. Mesamaize developed several of the more common se+ varieties many of which were sold by Burpees.

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Corn is mostly wind pollinated…or just self pollinated from pollen dropping from the tassel.
Bees are only a minor factor…although they will collect the pollen. (Which tastes like sand).

So, if you’re in a windy location, pollen might blow a half mile; if no wind, 10 feet might be safe.

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Thanks for clarifying that, it’s extremely helpful, as are the definitions you provided!!

safe? nope. this is Kansas after all!