How long does decorative Indian corn last?

Decorative Indian corn is a popular fall decoration that can last for months if stored properly. The lifespan of Indian corn depends on several factors like the type of corn, storage conditions, and how it’s displayed.

What is decorative Indian corn?

Decorative Indian corn, also known as ornamental corn, refers to varieties of corn that are cultivated specifically for their colorful kernels and husks. These types of corn are not meant to be eaten, but rather used for autumnal displays and crafts.

Some common types of decorative Indian corn include:

  • Strawberry corn – red kernels
  • Calico corn – multicolored speckled kernels
  • Bloody butcher corn – deep red kernels
  • Blue corn – bluish-gray kernels
  • Rainbow corn – multicolored kernels

The husks and leaves of Indian corn can also be very colorful, featuring shades of red, orange, brown, and purple. The visual appeal of the corn is what makes it a popular decoration for the fall season.

How is decorative Indian corn grown?

Decorative Indian corn is grown similar to other corn varieties. It’s planted in the spring and harvested in late summer/early fall when the kernels and husks have fully matured and turned color.

There are a few key differences in growing decorative corn versus field corn or sweet corn:

  • More space between plants is required to prevent cross-pollination that could dull the colors.
  • Herbicides aren’t used since they could alter the plant pigments.
  • The corn is left to dry fully on the stalk before harvesting.

The dried corn husks are often braided or tied into decorative bundles. Miniature dried ears of Indian corn are also popular for crafts and arrangements.

How long does dried Indian corn last?

When properly stored, dried Indian corn can last for many months post-harvest. Exact timelines can vary based on environmental factors.

Here are some general guidelines for how long decorative Indian corn lasts:

  • Dried husks: 3 to 6 months
  • Mini ears: 6 to 12 months
  • Loose dried kernels: 9 to 18 months

The husks tend to deteriorate faster as they are more delicate. Kernels can last over a year with the right storage conditions.

Factors affecting longevity

Several key factors impact how long decorative Indian corn lasts:

  • Moisture – Dampness causes mold/mildew growth. Keep decorative corn in a dry spot.
  • Pests – Bugs, rodents, and birds can damage stored corn. Use pest deterrents.
  • Light – Exposure to light fades the vibrant colors. Store corn in a dark place.
  • Air circulation – Good airflow prevents condensation buildup.
  • Temperature – Heat accelerates deterioration. Store corn in a cool spot.
  • Handling – Rough handling can damage the husks and kernels.

How to make decorative Indian corn last longer

Follow these tips to extend the lifespan of your decorative Indian corn:

  1. Select corn that feels very dry and shows no signs of mold or damage.
  2. Remove any remaining corn silk, debris, or loose kernels.
  3. Store the decorative corn in a cool, dry, dark location. An ideal spot is a dry attic, pantry, or basement.
  4. Allow for air circulation by not cramming the corn too tightly together.
  5. Check periodically for pests like mice or insects. Discard any damaged pieces immediately.
  6. Consider using desiccants to help absorb excess moisture. Silica gel packs work well.
  7. For loose kernels, seal them in air-tight containers or bags.
  8. Avoid storing corn near direct heat sources like furnace vents.

With the proper care, most decorative Indian corn will last for many months if not over a year. Just be sure to handle the husks gently and keep the corn in cool, dry storage.

How to display Indian corn as decorations

Indian corn makes a bold, striking statement when displayed in the home or at events. Here are some tips for putting your decorative corn on display:

For mini ears

  • Tie mini ears together into bundles to create swags or garlands for mantles, staircases, doors, etc.
  • Fill hurricane vases, pitchers, or glass jars with mini ears.
  • Scatter in bowls or pots for a fall table centerpiece.
  • Make a cornucopia or wreath by affixing ears to a form or frame.
  • Adhere mini ears to wall hangings or wreaths with hot glue.

For loose dried kernels

  • Place kernels in clear glass containers or vases.
  • Use to fill floor vases or hurricane lamps.
  • Fill bowls to use as a table scatter.
  • Layer different colored kernels in glass jars or bottles.

For corn husks

  • Make tied bundles for hanging or scattering.
  • Wrap lights or candle holders with husks.
  • Use to line baskets, crates, or boxes.
  • Weave, braid, or twist into shapes like stars, flowers, animals.

Avoid getting the husks or kernels wet when on display. Freshen dry decorations by spritzing very lightly with water and allowing to air dry as needed.

Drying Indian corn

If your Indian corn decorations start to get dried out or lose their appeal, it’s time to replace them with fresh pieces. You can dry Indian corn yourself to have decorations ready for next year.

Here are some tips for drying Indian corn at home:

  • Select corn varieties bred for decoration versus eating. Look for multi-colored kernels.
  • Allow corn to fully ripen and dry on the stalk before picking.
  • Pick corn once the husks appear very dry and the kernels are denting.
  • Pull back the husks and remove visible corn silk strands.
  • Air dry small ears by hanging in a warm, dry spot with good airflow. Attics or covered porches work well.
  • For loose kernels, spread in a single layer on screens or trays. Stir periodically.
  • A dehydrator on low heat can speed the drying process.
  • The corn is fully dried when kernels are shrunken and hardened and husks are papery.
  • To preserve color vibrancy, store dried corn in a cool, dark place.

With proper drying and storage methods, home-grown decorative Indian corn can deliver a colorful impact for more than one season.

Uses for decorative Indian corn

In addition to seasonal displays, decorative Indian corn can be incorporated into a variety of craft projects and arrangements:

  • Wreaths – Mini ears and dried husks work beautifully woven into wreaths.
  • Centerpieces – Arrange ears or loose kernels in bowls, vases, or containers.
  • Swags and garlands – Tie mini ears and husks into swag and garland strings to hang.
  • Bouquets – Use colored husks to wrap flower stems or mix ears into the arrangements.
  • Corn dollies – Traditional woven straw dolls with husks for hair.
  • Table runner – Glue dried kernels and husks onto burlap or linen.
  • Door hangings – Create a fall-themed hanging from mini ears and husks.

The uses are endless! Let your imagination run wild with how to best put your decorative corn on display.

Purchasing decorative Indian corn

You can buy decorative Indian corn at most craft stores, floral shops, and garden centers when it’s in season. Here are some tips for picking out good quality corn decorations:

  • Inspect for visible mold, decay, or insect damage. Avoid any with signs of wetness or rot.
  • Look for bright, vibrant colors in the husks and kernels.
  • Choose pieces with intact husks that aren’t shredded or falling apart.
  • Pick mini ears with tightly adhered kernels that don’t jiggle or fall off easily.
  • For loose kernels, make sure they don’t appear shriveled or dried out.
  • Purchase from a source with good product turnover for freshest corn.

The most beautiful, durable Indian corn will be newly harvested. Prices range widely based on corn quality and type. Expect to spend anywhere from $1 to over $10 per bundle or bag of kernels.


Decorative Indian corn provides a gorgeous and unique way to usher in the autumn season. With proper storage and handling, dried Indian corn can last for many months, often over a year. Keep your decorative corn looking its best by storing in a cool, dry spot safe from pests, moisture, and light. Show off the beautiful colors by displaying the husks and kernels in wreaths, bouquets, tablescapes, and more. With a little TLC, you’ll be able to enjoy Indian corn’s striking hues from autumn through winter.

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