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Why Is My Corn Not Growing Tall? Oh No!

Why Is My Corn Not Growing Tall? Oh No!

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If you plan on planting corn in your garden, consider how tall these plants grow.

Corn is popular for its oversized stalks that hive around people’s heads, so if your corn has stunted growth, there might be cause to worry.

Several environmental factors cause corn stalks not to grow tall, but that doesn’t necessarily affect your harvest.

Why Is My Corn Not Growing Tall?

The main reasons why your corn is not growing tall include heat stress and lack of water. Other issues could be soil compaction, insufficient light, and extremely cold temperatures. Corn requires rich soil, warm temperatures, and adequate irrigation to grow right.

Understanding Why Your Corn Is Not Growing Tall

Corn plants are the first thing people see when they walk into your compound due to their undeniable height. Naturally, corn plants get tall; their leaves get long and wide, with stems thickening as they mature.

It is, however, possible to have short corn plants, which could mean that there is something the plants are lacking. There are a few reasons why corn doesn’t grow tall in your planting area.

With the right conditions, these plants develop large foliage, which is used for photosynthesis and more energy production.

The thick stems aid in transporting nutrients and water to promote the development of new buds. These conditions include sufficient amounts of humidity, bright and indirect sunlight, heat, and water.

When these conditions aren’t met, the plants have stunted growth and don’t get tall.

Type of Corn

Here’s an overview of different type of corn and how tall each of these types get:

  • Sweet Corn: Generally grows to about 6-8 feet tall. Sweet corn is what most people grow in home gardens for fresh eating.
  • Dent Corn: Can reach heights of 8-12 feet. This type of corn is often used for animal feed and to make products like cornmeal.
  • Flint Corn: Similar to dent corn, flint corn usually reaches heights of 8-12 feet and is used in a similar way.
  • Popcorn: Typically grows to 6-8 feet tall.
  • Ornamental Corn: Usually ranges from 4-6 feet in height.
  • Waxy Corn: Typically reaches a height of 5-7 feet. This type is grown primarily in Asia for its glutinous kernels.
  • Dwarf Corn: Generally tops out at about 4-5 feet. These are bred specifically for small spaces and container gardening.

It’s important to consider how tall your corn plants will grow before choosing a planting location. Your anticipated height will help you plan how and where to plant your corn plants.

Different corn types grow to various heights, so short corn is not necessarily a sign of trouble for corn plants.

Short corn is popular for home gardens, and it’s short enough for other plants to get sufficient sunlight and tall enough to shade plants that don’t do well in full sun.

Some corn types have an exceptionally tall height, while others remain dwarf. Dwarf corn is suitable if you have minimal space to plant.

These plants use less room compared to other varieties and are suitable for small gardens.

Other Reasons Why Your Corn Plants Aren’t Growing Tall

If it has nothing to do with the type of corn you’ve planted, there are other reasons why corn plants have stunted growth.

Corn plants that remain short don’t reach their full heights due to any of the following factors:

Inadequate Water

Corn plants require water in plenty, especially young plants. When young corn is subjected to dry conditions, the mature plant height is subdued.

Corn plants that don’t get sufficient water reach their full heights when their growth is stunted.

Different corn varieties have different growth and maturity rates, but all new plants require plenty of water.

If you want your plants to have the best survival chances, plant them in soil with good drainage and water them constantly if they don’t receive enough irrigation from rainfall.

Dry conditions limit the plant’s ability to absorb soil nutrients, affecting growth.

Soil Compaction

When soil doesn’t have good drainage, it gets compacted. This causes oversaturation and affects normal plant growth.

These soil conditions hinder root development, affecting growth and forcing the plant to branch laterally. Corn plants require sufficient water, but if the soil is overwatered, the plant develops growth issues, and development issues to mature; tall plants are also exhibited.

Corn plants require lots of nitrogen for development. When the soil is nitrogen deficient, these plants develop stunted growth.

Adding nitrogen fertilizers to replenish soil nutrients helps corn that is shorter than normal.

Insufficient Light

Corn plants require lots of bright but indirect sunlight to thrive. The plant’s growth is affected when exposed to strong and direct sunlight.

Plants planted in sites with full afternoon sun are hit by the direct, intense rays, which isn’t good for growth.

Heat Stress

Corn plants don’t do well in areas with low humidity levels. They grow taller and faster when subjected to high humidity and temperatures because when humidity is increased, transpiration is minimized.

This means that the plants don’t need to conserve as much water, and the corn leaves unfold as a result.

Opening of the leaves allows accelerated corn growth because the opened stomata result in more photosynthesis.


Corn grows mostly during the late stage, where the internode cells are expanded to elongate the stalk. In cool temperatures, cellular rigidity slows down growth, which causes stunted height and foliage in corn plants.

However, the leaf size doesn’t affect the grain size or how much produce you harvest at the end of the season.

The new growth at the top of the plant contributes to grain size with the right conditions, but if the cool weather conditions persist, leaf development is decelerated.

Cold Drafts

If your corn plants aren’t getting tall, they could be affected by cold drafts.

Plants that are regularly exposed to cold drafts have stunted growth, so these plants should be planted away from doors and windows that are regularly opened as they let in cold air blasts.

As such, there are fewer leaves on the corn plant, and this affects its growth.

Frequently Asked Questions about Why My Corn Is Not Growing Tall

Do short corn plants affect yield?

Corn with stunted growth doesn’t necessarily affect the yield amount, as long as the plant gets nutrients and there are no issues of excess moisture. Corn that is short due to corn variety or shorter internodes has no impact on grain size.

Are there restrictions on corn varieties I can grow in my garden?

If there will be an issue with your garden space that will limit access to bright, indirect sunlight, read the seed packet when buying to determine which type is best for your space. Otherwise, you can grow any corn variety you choose to.

What are the right conditions to grow healthy corn?

Corn does well in fertile soil with nutrients and good drainage. The plant should be well tilled and grown in 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit and above 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night. The plants shouldn’t be planted in areas exposed to cold and frost or in moist soil, which stunts the crop’s growth. Depending on the year you plant your crops and the hybrid type, you can determine their stalk height and growth rate.


Mature corn plants are tall. If your crops remain short even after maturing, chances are there could be issues like temperature, water, or soil causing the stunted growth.

Heat stress has a similar effect on these crops, and short plants cause lower yields because they are less successful in pollination.