How long do seeds last?

by Isabel Vinton

Jim Myers of Oregon State University explaining how to cross bean varieties.

We’re at the Organic Seed Growers Conference in Oregon this weekend and feeling seedier than ever! One of the seedy questions we get asked all the time is how long seeds last. The Organic Seed Alliance has a fantastically comprehensive Seed Saving Guide which covers this question and many more. However, if your interest doesn't quite stretch to 30 pages, read on for highlights and a seed saving story that's particularly close to our hearts.

Firstly, remember that only some seeds are worth saving:

  • Open-pollinated/heirloom seeds are the best seeds to save. All of our seeds are open-pollinated and many of them are heirloom varieties.
  • Most people don't save hybrid seeds since the offspring does not grow true-to-type and tends to produce lower yields.

Ok, so now to get the question - how long do seeds last? As a general rule of thumb, most major vegetable crop seeds will remain viable for 3-5 years, and in some cases, they can last as long as 10 years!

There are some exceptions. Alliums, parnsips, and spinach have a shorter lifespan and may only last 1 or 2 years. Others like amaranth are said to last up to 40 years!

Garlic Chives











What about flowers? Most annuals typically last 1-3 years. Perennials tend to last 2-4 years.

Sunflower seeds

Balloon Vine Seeds

Lacy Phacelia seeds







Drying Swiss Giant Snow Pea seed

Storage Conditions are really important for helping your seeds to stay viable for as long as possible. It's important to keep them in a cool (but not freezing), dry, dark place, protected from insects and rodents. Ideally, you should allow the seeds to dry after harvesting and then put them in a sealed container (we recommend glass jars).

Germination testing is still a good idea to test the quality of your old seeds before you plant them next season. Our Seed-Trade Secrets blog tells you how to test your seeds at home.


Interested to learn more?

Don't miss the Organic Seed Alliance's Seed Saving Guide

Get inspired by one of our favorite seed saving stories from the Roughwood Seed Collection. This is the story of how William Woys Weaver discovered his grandfather's seed collection, now comprising around 4,000 varieties of heirloom food plants. We have several of Roughwood's seeds available in our 2018 catalog - click here to learn which varieties they are!