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How Long Do Seeds Last? Here’s What You Need to Know

Cheryl Spencer from Simply Smart Gardening
Inside: How long do seeds last? Find out if your flower and vegetable seeds are still good.

As you thumb through half-empty seed packets left over from last year, or even several years ago, you wonder if they’re still good.

You shrug, plant the seeds, and cross your fingers. If they don’t germinate, you’ll buy some new ones.

Here’s my prediction. By the time you notice the seeds haven’t germinated, your garden will be several weeks behind where it should be.

And that’s not good.

It’ll stop you from getting the most out of your garden this year.

But you can easily avoid this mistake. Keep reading to find out how.

BONUS: As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, download a free Seed Viability Chart. It answers the question, “are these seeds too old to plant?”
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase. I only link to products I use and recommend.
packet of melon seeds
Not all seeds last very long. Some are only good for a couple of seasons.

Are Your Old Seeds Viable?

The question to ask yourself when planting old seeds is, are they still viable?

Are your seeds still alive?

Will they germinate and grow into healthy plants?

You can do a simple germination test to find out if they’ll sprout. (See tips below for testing your seed germination rates).

But a germination test won’t tell you whether they’re vigorous enough to reach maturity and give you a good harvest. (Agricultural labs test for seed vigor, but it’s not something we home gardeners can do accurately.)

Even so, if you do a germination test of old seeds and the seedlings seem stunted (smaller than normal leaves or root systems), it’s probably time to start over with new seeds.

Related: How to prevent leggy seedlings.

gardener shaking seeds out of seed packet onto soil
If your seeds are older, sow them more thickly.

What Affects Seed Viability?

Three things will determine whether your seeds are still viable.

  1. Age of the seeds. All seeds will be viable for one to two years. After two years, germination rates will drop for many types of seeds, and will eventually fall to zero. So, stocking up on seeds for an “emergency” isn’t a good idea, because they don’t last forever.
  2. The type of seed. What type of seed you have will also affect how long it’s viable. Some seeds like onions and corn have a short lifespan, while others like cucumber and melon can last up to 6 years. Pelleted seed is best used within one year because the pelleting process can reduce the seed’s lifespan.
  3. Seed storage practices. Seeds stay viable much longer when you store them in a cool, dry, dark place. Reducing humidity is key. This can be as simple as storing seeds in a sealed plastic bag with some rice or desiccant packets to absorb excess humidity. Store the bags in a cool, dark place.

Every time a seed experiences less than ideal conditions, its longevity and viability decline.

Related: The best catalogs to have on hand when buying seeds.

Even though they appear lifeless, seeds are living things. So, how you treat your seeds out in the garden is important.

  • Don’t leave them lying outside to bake in the hot sun, or let them get wet.
  • And don’t leave them in your greenhouse or shed.
  • If you always put your seed packets away when you’re done with them, your seeds will last longer.
Download a FREE handy seed chart as a bonus for joining my newsletter: send me the Seed Viability Chart!

How Long Do Flower Seeds Last?

Here are some general guidelines. Your seeds’ shelf life depends on how carefully you’ve stored your seeds.

Most perennial flowers are good for about 5 years, and most annual flower seeds will last up to 3 years.

Pro tip: Save time by writing the expected expiration date on your seed packets. Then you won’t have to spend time every year deciding whether your seeds are still good.

Related: Set up a DIY seed starting system in an afternoon.

How Long Do Vegetable Seeds Last?

How long vegetable seeds can be stored varies widely, depending on the seed type and storage conditions. Seeds that are stored in cool, dry conditions will last the longest.

Here are some rules of thumb to help you determine how long your seeds can be stored.

Seeds that remain viable for up to 5 years:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery & Celeriac
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Melon
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Spinach
  • Squash & gourds
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomato
  • Turnip
  • Watermelon
Make seed starting easier this year. Download my FREE Seed Viability Chart.

Seeds that remain viable for up to 4 years:

  • Artichoke & cardoon
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Mustard
  • Peas

Seeds that remain viable for up to 3 years:

  • Asian greens
  • Corn, sweet

Seeds that remain viable for 1-2 years:

  • Leeks
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Parsnip
  • Rhubarb
Take the guesswork out of starting seeds. Get my FREE Seed Viability Chart.
Related freebies: FREE gardening printables

Testing Seed Viability

If you’re uncertain whether your old garden seeds will germinate, you can do a germination test.

Download Your Free Seed Viability Chart

This chart covers seed longevity for more than 100 types of vegetables and flowers!

Here’s a sneak peek of the chart that answers the question, “how long do seeds last?”

seed viability chart

Download the chart now.

Want More Help With Seed Starting?

If you liked this article, you’ll love my post about setting up grow light shelves.

Cheryl Spencer, certified gardener

Hi, I’m Cheryl.
I’m a certified gardener, bird lover, and spreadsheet enthusiast. I believe you can grow your dream garden and still have time to enjoy it. I teach online gardening courses and write articles that help you save time and money in your garden. Join my mailing list, and as a bonus, you’ll get a helpful checklist that’ll tell you what to do in your garden right now.

4 thoughts on “How Long Do Seeds Last? The Surprising Truth + A Helpful Chart”

  1. Would like to Thank You for all your helpful ideas & also for your time devoted to helping develop a Fun & exciting Gardening experience
    Great Work 👍🏽

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