Skip to Content

Do Seeds Really Expire and How to Know If Yours Are OK to Plant

If you like to garden, you’ve probably found some old seed packets you never got around to planting. If you’re ready to plant them now, you might wonder if they’re still good.

Seeds can lose their ability to grow strong plants over time, but do they ever really go bad? We asked gardening experts, who will explain if seeds go bad and how to tell if yours will still sprout.

Do Seeds Expire?

seeds 1302793 1280

Seeds will eventually lose their ability to grow strong plants as they age, so they won’t sprout anymore.

“If you don’t plant them, they lose their ability to sprout over time because of getting old, being exposed to light, temperature changes, and how wet they are,” says Carrie Spoonemore, who helped make Park Seed’s From Seed to Spoon.

Different kinds of seeds can stay good for different amounts of time, depending on their kind, their genetics, and how they are stored.

What the Expiration Date on a Seed Packet Means

Lots of seed packets have an expiration date on them, which usually tells you when the seeds are sure to sprout.

“This date can help people know the best time to plant so the seeds will sprout and grow well,” says Spoonemore.

Depending on how the seeds were stored and other things, they might still sprout after that date.”

Keep in Mind

Even though there are guesses about how long seeds stay good, it depends on what kind of seeds they are and how they were stored.

Why Some Seeds Last Longer Than Others

Some seeds stay good longer than others for different reasons. “Seeds that stay good for a long time often have tough coats that protect them from the weather and injury.

Some examples are beans, peas, and squash seeds,” says Spoonemore.

“Seeds that don’t stay good as long have more water in them and can be hurt more easily. Some examples are lettuce, onion, and parsley seeds.”

How Long Seeds Stay Good

Spoonemore says seeds can stay good for different amounts of time depending on what kind they are and how they are stored.

Vegetable seeds: Three to six years
Fruit seeds: Two to six years
Flower seeds: One to three years
Herb seeds: One to three years
How to Tell If Seeds Are Still Good

How to Keep Seeds Good Longer

Linda Langelo, who knows a lot about plants at Colorado State University, says you should always keep seeds in a cool, dry place.

The place should be around 45 degrees Fahrenheit and have less than 8 percent humidity. A dark basement, a closet that stays dark, or the fridge are all good places.

Don’t put seeds where they will get light or where they will get hot and wet, as this will make them go bad faster.

Take the seeds out of the packets they came in and put them in a closed container with a label.

“To be sure the container is closed right, put it in water and see if any water gets in. If it doesn’t, it’s good,” says Langelo.

Put some rice or something similar in the bottom of the container to absorb any water. If you’re saving seeds from your garden, ensure the seed you pick is from a healthy plant.