Growing Corn in 5 Gallon Buckets: A Simple Guide for Urban Gardeners

  • By: Michael Barnes
  • Time to read: 12 min.

Growing corn in 5 gallon buckets has become a popular trend among gardening enthusiasts, as it allows for an efficient and space-saving method to cultivate this much-loved, versatile crop. Container gardening has several advantages, such as making it easier to monitor and control the growing conditions, providing flexibility in the choice of planting locations, and creating an accessible way to cultivate corn for both experienced and beginner gardeners.

When considering growing corn in a 5-gallon bucket, it’s essential to select the right soil mix and take preventive measures against pests like squash vine borers. Planting winter squash as a companion plant to corn can also be beneficial. Be mindful to pick a variety of corn that adapts well to container growing and provide your plants with at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily. Keeping these factors in mind will help ensure a successful and bountiful harvest.

Growing Corn in 5 Gallon Buckets

Choosing the Right Container

When it comes to growing corn in containers, selecting the appropriate container is a crucial step that significantly impacts the success of your container gardening journey. Ensure that you choose a container that is large enough to support the corn plants’ growth and has proper drainage.

5 Gallon Bucket

5-gallon bucket serves as an excellent option for growing corn in a container, as it provides adequate space for the roots to spread and develop. To use a 5-gallon bucket as your corn-growing container, ensure that you make drainage holes at the bottom to prevent excess water from accumulating, which could harm your plants.

Fill the bucket with a high-quality, well-draining potting mix, leaving about an inch of space at the top. You may also want to consider selecting dwarf corn varieties such as ‘Golden Bantam’ or ‘Peaches and Cream,’ which are better suited for growing corn in containers.

Other Suitable Containers

Aside from 5-gallon buckets, there are other suitable containers that you can use for growing corn. The key is to select a container that is at least 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Large pots made from various materials, such as plastic, ceramic, metal, and even fabric, can work well for corn container gardening.

Alternatively, you can repurpose other items, such as whiskey barrels or large storage totes, into corn-growing containers. As long as your chosen container has the required depth and width for your corn plants’ healthy growth and development, you can utilize it for container gardening.

In conclusion, growing corn in a 5-gallon bucket or other suitable containers can be a rewarding experience. The key to success lies in choosing the right container for your corn plants, ensuring proper drainage, and filling it with good-quality potting mix.

Growing Corn in 5 Gallon Buckets

Selecting the Appropriate Corn Variety

Sweet Corn

Sweet corn is a popular choice for gardeners, as it provides a delicious and sweet-tasting harvest. There are different sweet corn types like Sugary Enhanced (SE) and Supersweet (Sh2). These two varieties have higher sugar content which converts into starch slower than standard sweet corn, making the kernels of corn sweeter and tastier for an extended period of time. When choosing sweet corn, select varieties that are suitable for container gardening, such as ‘On Deck’ or ‘Ruby Queen.’


Popcorn is another variable to consider when growing corn in 5-gallon buckets. This corn variety has hard, starchy kernels that, when cooked, pop open to reveal a fluffy interior. Some recommended popcorn varieties for container growing include ‘Robust’ and ‘Shaman’s Blue.’ Ensure proper care and maintenance are applied for successful popcorn harvest.

Painted Mountain

Painted Mountain corn is a variety known for its resilience and fast growth, making it a good choice for container gardening. This corn variety, which reaches maturity in just 70 days, has a range of uses, including grinding into flour, making cornmeal or polenta, and as animal feed. It also exhibits hardy and diverse traits, perfect for growers with challenging environmental conditions.

Dwarf Varieties

Dwarf corn varieties are an ideal option for growing corn in 5-gallon buckets because of their shorter height and smaller root systems. Some recommended dwarf varieties for container gardening include ‘Dwarf Blue Jade,’ ‘Bodacious R/M,’ and ‘Golden Bantam.’ These corn types do not exceed four feet in height, making them suitable for compact growing spaces.

Miniature Corn

Miniature corn is a unique option for container gardening. These corn varieties produce small, tender ears used primarily in culinary dishes, like stir-fries or as a garnish. Varieties like ‘Baby Corn,’ ‘Miniature Pink,’ and ‘Miniature Blue’ are suited for growing corn in 5-gallon buckets, and the harvest is perfect for adding a twist to your favorite recipes.

Incorporating these corn varieties into your container gardening plan will pave the way for a successful and bountiful corn harvest. Select the type that caters to your specific tastes, growing conditions, and location to maximize your growing experience.

Growing Corn in 5 Gallon Buckets

Preparing the Soil and Pot

When growing corn in 5-gallon buckets, it’s essential to prepare both the soil and the pot properly. In this section, we’ll discuss potting soil mix, drainage, and water retention, which are all important factors.

Potting Soil Mix

The potting soil mix plays critical in the growth and development of corn plants. A well-prepared mix should consist of high-quality potting soil, including organic matter, peat moss, and perlite. For the best results, add compost to the mix, which provides vital nutrients for the corn plants. Corn is a heavy feeder, so including an all-purpose fertilizer, well-composted chicken manure, or fish emulsion will give the plants the nutrients they need during the first weeks of growth.


For successful container gardening, ensure your 5-gallon bucket has sufficient drainage holes. Good drainage prevents waterlogging, which can stunt growth or cause root rot. Select a quality compost that promotes well-drained soil, and consider adding perlite to improve soil drainage. If necessary, add a layer of gravel or stones at the bottom of the container to further enhance drainage.

Water Retention

Corn plants require moist soil throughout their growth, so balancing water retention in the pot is important. Opt for peat-based potting soil and consider mixing it with organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure, which increases water retention. Space the corn seeds about 4-6 inches apart in the container, with four seeds per container, to allow for proper water distribution. Regular watering and monitoring of soil moisture will ensure your corn plants stay hydrated and healthy.

Planting and Spacing

Planting Corn Seeds

To start growing corn in a 5-gallon bucket, begin by choosing a dwarf variety of corn that won’t grow too tall, such as ‘Golden Bantam’ or ‘Peaches and Cream’. Fill the bucket with peat-based potting soil, leaving about an inch of space at the top.

Plant the corn seeds directly into the bucket, making sure to leave enough space between the seeds for the corn plants to grow. Be sure to provide plenty of direct suns, as corn plants require at least six hours of sunlight daily. Additionally, ensure the bucket has drainage holes to prevent overwatering. If you don’t have a backyard, a patio or porch with ample sunlight works well for growing corn in containers.

Spacing Considerations

Proper spacing is crucial when growing corn in a 5-gallon bucket. The space between each plant should ideally be around 18-25 cm. This ensures that the plants have enough room to properly establish a strong root system.

In the case of short corn varieties, you can plant the seeds in rows 12-18 inches apart. Maintain a space of around 20 cm between each plant. When the seedlings reach about 6 inches in height, thin the space between them to ensure optimal growth.

Remember to monitor your corn plants regularly for any signs of pests or diseases, and take appropriate measures to protect the plants. With proper care and attention, you can successfully grow corn in a 5-gallon bucket and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

Optimal Growing Conditions

Sunlight and Temperature

Corn requires plenty of sunlight for optimal growth. It needs 6-8 hours of full sun per day, with direct sunlight being the most beneficial. Seedlings should be exposed to sun when the temperature is consistently above 60°F (15°C), as corn is sensitive to cold temperatures. Keep in mind, planting corn in a limited space such as a 5-gallon bucket means you need to be more mindful of the plant’s sunlight exposure, so be prepared to reposition your bucket if necessary.

Watering and Moisture

Watering is crucial for corn, especially when grown in containers where soil tends to dry out faster than in the ground. Water your corn plants regularly to maintain consistent moisture in the soil. Be sure to use a container with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging and root rot. A layer of mulch can also help retain moisture in the soil.

Here is a simple guideline for watering corn in a 5-gallon bucket:

  • Seedlings: Water daily or every other day (1-2 inches per week)
  • Mature plants: Water 2-3 times per week (2-3 inches per week)

Adjust the watering frequency based upon the current climate and season.

Nutrient Requirements

Corn plants have a high nitrogen requirement for proper growth. When growing corn in a 5-gallon bucket, use a well-draining potting soil mixed with a nitrogen-rich compost or slow-release fertilizer. This will provide enough nutrients to support the plant throughout its growing season.

In addition, corn benefits from companion planting. For example, planting pole beans with corn can help add nitrogen to the soil, improving overall nutrient availability.

To summarize, the optimal growing conditions for corn in 5-gallon buckets include full sun exposure, proper watering and moisture retention, and meeting the plant’s nutrient requirements. By carefully attending to these factors, you can successfully grow corn in a space-saving container.

Companion Plants and Support

Pole Beans and Winter Squash

Growing corn in 5 gallon buckets can be both space-saving and a great way to test your container gardening skills. One important aspect to consider is companion planting, which helps to maximize space and promote healthy growth of your corn plants.

Pole beans can be a good companion plant for corn. They can climb onto the corn stalks, thus eliminating the need for a separate trellis. Beans also help in fixing nitrogen in the soil, contributing to better root development for the corn. However, it’s essential to provide enough space for the beans to grow in the bucket without overcrowding.

Winter squash, when grown alongside corn, can act as a natural mulch. The large leaves of squashes cover the soil around corn plants, preventing weed growth and retaining moisture. This reduces the need for frequent watering. In turn, corn provides shade that can benefit the squash plants.

Herbs and Other Vegetables

Many herbs make great companion plants for corn due to their ability to deter pests. Mint, for example, can repel deer and other grazing animals that may harm your corn plants. Planting mint alongside corn can provide a protective barrier and promote healthy growth.

Other vegetables like tomatoes and peppers can also complement corn in a 5 gallon bucket setup, albeit with careful spacing and management. Tomatoes, being tall plants, need to be spaced properly to ensure they don’t compete with corn for sunlight. Peppers, on the other hand, being smaller, can be interplanted with corn without causing too much competition for resources.

In conclusion, when growing corn in 5 gallon buckets, it’s crucial to carefully choose companion plants and provide proper support for maximizing yield and promoting healthy growth. With the right pairings, you can create a thriving container garden of corn with the added benefits of pest deterrence and resource sharing.

Caring and Maintenance


To ensure a healthy growth and better yield, corn plants grown in a 5-gallon bucket need regular fertilization. Use an all-purpose slow-release fertilizer at the time of planting. As plants grow and start producing tassels, supplement their nutrient needs by applying a fish emulsion or other liquid, high-nitrogen fertilizer every 2-3 weeks. This helps keep your corn plants healthy and ensures their proper growth.

Mulching and Water Retention

For successful corn growth in 5-gallon buckets, adequate water retention is crucial. Use mulching techniques to help retain moisture in the soil, which can be especially important during hot, dry periods. Place a 2-3 inch layer of mulch, such as grass clippings, shredded bark, or straw, on the soil surface around your corn plants. This helps conserve water, suppress weeds, and regulate the temperature, allowing your corn to thrive in its container environment.

Pest and Disease Control

Corn grown in 5-gallon buckets is not immune to common pests and diseases that can affect its production. Watchful monitoring and early detection are key to keeping pests like aphids, corn borers, and cutworms at bay. For a pesticide-free option, attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings to your garden to help control pests. Regularly inspect the plants for signs of disease, such as yellowing or wilting leaves, which might indicate a problem.

If pests and diseases do become a problem, treat accordingly using organic or chemical methods suited for container-grown corn. Make sure to follow all label directions when applying any pesticides or fungicides to minimize the risk of harm to yourself, your plants and the environment.

Adapting your care and maintenance to the specific needs of corn grown in 5-gallon buckets will help lead to successful production and a satisfying harvest.

Pollination and Harvesting

Ensuring Pollination Success

When growing corn in 5-gallon buckets, one of the most critical factors for successful production is proper pollination. Corn plants rely on wind to evenly distribute pollen from the tassel, located at the top of the plant, to the silk on each ear. To increase your chances of success, arrange your containers in blocks of at least four plants. This way, the wind can better distribute the pollen among plants, helping ensure the silk on each ear gets pollinated.

It’s also essential to choose the right corn variety for your garden bed or container-grown corn project. Some corn varieties, such as shorter or dwarf varieties, are better suited for growing corn in pots than taller, field varieties.

Timing and Harvest Tips

Another crucial aspect of successful corn production in 5-gallon buckets is planning the timing of your planting and harvest. Corn is a warm-weather crop, so it’s best to plant the corn seeds in pots two to three weeks after your final frost date, when the garden soil has warmed adequately.

Keep an eye on your plants’ growth and development to identify the ideal harvest time. Sweet corn is typically ready for harvesting 18-24 days after the silk first appears. The silk will turn brown and dry, while the kernels within each ear will be plump and tender when they reach optimal ripeness.

When caring for your corn plants, water them when the top inch of soil in the bucket is dry. Good drainage is essential for container-grown corn, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot and other issues that decrease crop yield.

While 5-gallon buckets might not provide the same yields as a traditional garden bed, you can still expect a decent harvest if you carefully manage pollination and timing. If you want privacy, consider growing taller corn varieties, as they can double as a privacy wall. Some ornamental corn varieties can also be grown in containers, serving dual purposes for food production and ornamental purposes.

How many corn stalks in a 5 gallon bucket?

Generally, you should only plant one corn stalk per 5-gallon bucket. Corn needs a lot of space to grow properly, and overcrowding can lead to issues with nutrient absorption and pollination.

What is the best container for growing corn?

Corn grows best in large containers that provide ample space for its roots to spread out. A container that is at least 12 inches deep and 12 inches in diameter is a good minimum size. In terms of material, any durable material that has adequate drainage will do. Plastic, wood, and ceramic containers can all be used, as long as they have holes in the bottom for excess water to escape.

How many plants can you grow in a 5 gallon bucket?

The number of plants that can grow in a 5-gallon bucket depends on the type of plant and its space requirements. For larger vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, or corn, it’s usually best to stick with one plant per bucket. Smaller plants like herbs, lettuce, or radishes can be grown in multiples – anywhere from 3-5 for herbs, up to 10-15 for something like radishes.

How many ears of corn can you get from one plant?

On average, you can expect to get one to two ears of corn per plant. Some varieties may produce more, but this is the general average. Factors such as sunlight, water, nutrient availability, and space can impact how many ears each plant produces.

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