How long do seeds last?

by Isabel Vinton

One of the seedy questions we get asked all the time is, How long do seeds last?

While, technically, the answer depends on the specific type of seed, we can still have a lot of success with our seed-saving efforts if we keep in mind a few basic principles and rules.

First, 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.

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).

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, parsnips, 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!

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

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 in learning more? Check out the Organic Seed Alliance's in-depth Seed Saving Guide.