how long do plant seeds last

Seed Life Chart: How Long Will Seeds Last?

Each year you’ll inevitably run out of garden space and have a certain amount of seeds left over after planting. Don’t throw them out just yet! Depending on the type of seed and its quality, you may be able to store them and use them next year or the year after. In fact, some seeds, if properly stored, can be viable even after ten years. Some varieties of tomato seeds have even been known to germinate after as long as 16 years!

Tips for Storing Seeds

Storing unused vegetable or flower seeds does require some care. To remain viable, seeds must not be exposed to any moisture or extreme temperature fluctuations. They should be kept in a cool dry place. Some people store them in sealed plastic bags, while others keep them in glass jars in the refrigerator. Whatever works best for you is fine, but the important thing is that they not be exposed to moisture. Wetness can quickly cause mold to grow, killing the seeds.

Testing Seeds

Let’s say you have some seeds that are a couple of years old. At this point, you really can’t be certain if they are going to germinate, even if they’ve been stored under optimum conditions in a dry, cool place.

In this situation, you can test the seeds a few weeks before planting time by taking several seeds, placing them on a moist paper towel, covering it with plastic and placing it in a warm spot. Check back in a week or so and if you have sprouts you’ll know the seeds are viable.

Seed Life Chart

To help you figure out if your seeds are still viable, refer to the following chart, which indicates the life expectancies of certain types of vegetable seeds stored under ideal conditions. The chart has been modified from D.N. Maynard and G.J. Hochmuth, Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers , 4th Edition (1997).

Vegetable – Years
Asparagus – 3
Bean – 3
Beet – 4
Broccoli – 3
Brussels Sprouts – 4
Cabbage – 4
Carrot – 3
Celeriac – 3
Cauliflower – 4
Celery – 3
Chard, Swiss – 4
Chicory – 4
Chinese Cabbage – 3
Collards – 5
Corn, Sweet – 2
Cucumber – 5
Eggplant – 4
Endive – 5
Fennel – 4
Kale – 4
Kohlrabi – 3
Leek – 2
Lettuce – 6
Muskmelon – 5
Mustard – 4
Okra – 2
Onion – 1
Parsley – 1
Parsnip – 1
Pea – 3
Pepper – 2
Pumpkin – 4
Radish – 5
Rutabaga – 4
Salsify – 1
Spinach – 3
Squash – 4
Tomato – 4
Turnip – 4
Watermelon – 4

Want to learn more about storing seeds and how long seeds will last?

Check out these helpful websites:
Storing Leftover Garden Seed from Ohio State University Extension Service
Go Through leftover Garden seeds from Oregon State University Extension Service



Can anyone suggest a good beginners guide for backyard companion planting in a temperate climate of NSW…Please…..Cheers

You can’t go wrong with a Yates garden guide. It’s a good place to start & it’s available most places, even Big W.

2013-04-28 · a comprehensive “sow what when” monthly seed planting guide ; Please note, these gardening calendars are for Australian temperate climates (climates with a warm summer with an average January maximum temperature of less than 30 degrees Celcius and a cool winter). This includes most of southern coastal Australia from Melbourne and Adelaide through to Perth, the coastal region south of Sydney, the New South Wales tablelands …

abhimanyu jha says

Quite interesting information.

Cool. I have seeds still attached to the plants, hung up for a couple of years in my garage. Sometimes they are knocked down – now I have lettuces growing on my lawn, from when I sweep, lol.

I have heirloom tomato seeds that are over ten years old. They are still viable I grew two plants last year & saved seeds to boost the dwindling supply. I find popping them into an envelope & storing them in a sealed tin, in a cool dark place works.

Lazy Gardener says

I’ve got Whippersnapper cherry tomatoes producing fruit that were started from 20-year-old seed that was stored in the house except for last year when I forgot about them being in the garage. They still survived the Texas heat and humidity!

Bruce Smith says

The colorful, striped Fish peppers and the beautiful purple Buena Mulata peppers would have been lost forever if not for William Woys Weaver finding the seeds in his grandfather’s freezer in the 1990’s where they had been for 50 years. The seeds that you can buy today for these two wonderful peppers are descendants of the seeds found in that old freezer.

That is amazing.
Thank you and keep safe.

I would like to know what brand of freezer it is that would operate for 50 years.

I’m sure it’s not difficult to move the contents in a freezer to another one in the event of it breaking down.

can Red Salvia seeds that are in sealed packets be refrigerated & saved for next years planting?

seed sellers say, of course, that old seeds should be thrown out, that they won’t grow. i am not against seed growers (except corn geneticists), but many seeds can be regenerated and grown if thoughtfully stored, potentially centuries later. give old seeds a try just for fun!

I store the geranium wallichianum seeds I collect in photographic film reel ‘boxes’ – round black plastic with grey snap shut lids. These work really well!

If yeast can retain the fermentation process for 1000’s of years Can a Marijuana seed from 100 years ago be duplicated?

If I store seeds for many years (about 3 to 4) and plant them after tha , and they some how manage to germinate can I except them to grow to their fullest and make good produce?(Especially green beans seeds)

I threw some very old long bean seed into the garden. Nearly 2 years later they germinated & I am now getting a crop from seeds I though we too old to grow.

With the way the government is getting I would like to have many seeds froze up in my freezer so if times get tough I can plant them each year. Is it better to freeze or is it better to keep in tins in the dark.

Clancy DuSay says

I totally agree, that’s why I’m checking out storage methods! Take care.

I used to work in the WJ Beal Botanical garden at Michigan State. Dr Beal sealed jars containing seeds in sand and buried them on campus, and that experiment is still ongoing today. While I was there (2000-2005) we planted seeds from the 1879 study, and had germination of some various plant species. (Im not a scientist btw)

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Garrett Clevenger says

I bought a bunch of seeds from 2008 through 2011. They’ve been stored in a cool, dark place. I’ve recently tried germinated some.

These seeds sprouted:

13 year old watermelon (high %)

basil (high %)
beans (high %)
broccoli (med %)
cabbage (med %)
Chinese cabbage (high %)
cucumbers (med %)
onions (high %)
peas (high %)
poc choi (high %)
spaghetti squash (low %)

10 year old iceberg lettuce (high %)

These seeds didn’t:

carrots, most squash, some lettuce, peppers

I was surprised by the high onion germination. All the crucifers held their longevity. Big seeds, no surprise they last longer. Surprised that squash don’t hold their own.

Store your seeds well and hopefully they’ll last longer. Or plant them!

Seed Life Chart: How Long Will Seeds Last? Each year you’ll inevitably run out of garden space and have a certain amount of seeds left over after planting. Don’t throw them out just yet!