Heirloom seed companies have been making a comeback, but what exactly are heirloom seeds, and where the best place to buy them?
I'm sharing my favorite seed companies, plus reader recommendations and some unique seed sources to investigate. These heirloom seed companies will help you bring old fashioned flavors, scents, and colors back to your garden for beautiful and delicious crops.
- What are Heirloom Seeds?
- 10 Best Places to Buy Heirloom Seeds
- 1. Pinetree Garden Seeds
- 2. True Leaf Market
- 3. High Mowing Organic Seeds
- 4. Seed Treasures
- 5. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
- 6. Stover Seeds Company
- 7. St. Clare Heirloom Seeds
- 8. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
- 9. Seed Savers Exchange
- 10. North Circle Seeds
- Honorable Mention – Experimental Farm Network
- Reader Recommendations
- More Gardening Articles
What are Heirloom Seeds?
Many heirloom seeds are literally family heirlooms. These seed varieties have been passed down through generations in a family or community, adapting to the local conditions.
Some people say the term only applies to varieties developed before WWII, others are more flexible.
The book “Heirloom Vegetables: A Home Gardener's Guide to Finding and Growing Vegetables from the Past” has gorgeous photos of many heirloom vegetables. It's an older book, so used copies are inexpensive.
What's the Difference Between Hybrid and Heirloom Seeds?
Hybrid seeds are a cross between two or more different varieties, while heirloom seeds are from a single variety.
Some vegetable seeds are open pollinated (they breed true to type), but are not heirlooms because they have not been around a long time.
Why do seeds companies sell so many hybrid seeds?
Generally, hybrids are bred for disease resistance, higher yields, uniform appearance, durability, and other traits useful for commercial growers. If you have a pest or disease problem, a hybrid might be the right answer while you work to improve overall garden health.
“Hybrid” does not mean genetically modified. Most hybrid crops are bred the old fashioned way, with two plant varieties mixing pollen.
Currently, the only genetically modified garden crops are corn, potatoes, summer squash, and soybeans. The companies in this article do not sell genetically modified seeds.
10 Best Places to Buy Heirloom Seeds
These are my favorite seed sources, plus reader favorites and one we want to try.
Note: Many heirloom seed companies are experiencing higher than normal order volumes. Please be patient with your orders, and allow extra time for delivery.
1. Pinetree Garden Seeds
Pinetree Garden Seeds – I've been ordering from Pinetree the longer than any other company. They are located in New Gloucester, Maine.
Their prices are reasonable, and they give smaller quantities of seed in each packet so you don't end up carrying over so much seed from one year to the next if you have a smaller garden.
2. True Leaf Market
True Leaf Market has been providing seed under the brands Mountain Valley Seed and Handy Pantry since 1974. They provide seeds for home gardeners and professional growers, for planting and for sprouting.
Their website also features related products, like growing kits, juicers, and fermentation supplies. The company is located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
3. High Mowing Organic Seeds
High Mowing Seeds is located in Walcott, Vermont. They offer 100% certified organic seed. One unique section of their site is their crops that grow well in high tunnels, a useful option for market gardeners.
Their organic seed collections provide a small discount when you buy a group of seed packets. They include a Bee's Garden Collection for pollinators, a Container Garden Collection, and several others. The site features free shipping for all orders over $50 within the contiguous United States.
4. Seed Treasures
Reader recommended Seed Treasures is located off grid in Northern Minnesota, a plus for northern growers. They specialize in preserving heritage open pollinated seeds. Some are heirloom seeds, others Native American crops or modern open pollinated varieties.
5. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange carries about 800 varieties of vegetables, flower, herb, grain, and cover crop seeds. Located in Mineral, Virginia, they specialize in varieties that perform well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
They are certified organic, and offer many unique southern heirlooms like butterbeans and naturally colored cotton.
6. Stover Seeds Company
Stover Seed Company is located in Sun Valley, California, and features water wise choices and vegetables and herbs for western climates. They also sell large quantities of native forbs and grasses for landscaping.
7. St. Clare Heirloom Seeds
St. Clare Heirloom Seeds is located in Cecil, Wisconsin. They only sell non-hybrid, untreated, heirloom and open pollinated garden seeds. Their website is conversational, with things like suggestions for use of heirloom flowers. They are a conservative, family run company.
8. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – Baker Creek has gorgeous photos in the print catalog and online. They have many unusual heirloom seeds and open-pollinated varieties.
Their headquarters is in Mansfield, Missouri.
9. Seed Savers Exchange
Seed Savers Exchange – I love the idea of Seed Savers Exchange, and they have a beautiful and inspiring catalog. Unfortunately, not all the seeds I've ordered from them have had the quality I expect from a seed company.
Germination rates have been poor, squash that were supposed to store well stored poorly (they were the first to rot in storage our of six varieties).
Plants have failed to thrive (right next to similar plants from other seeds sources. Tomatoes that were described as crack resistant cracked worse than any others in my garden (and I grow around 20 varieties).
When I emailed with my concerns, I received no response.
10. North Circle Seeds
Located in Minnesota, North Circle Seeds partners with their circle of Midwestern growers, who produce regionally adapted seed using chemical-free, sustainable and organic practices.
Honorable Mention – Experimental Farm Network
The Experimental Farm Network Cooperative seed store is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Most of their seeds are grown in Minnesota and New Jersey. As an experimental seed developer, they have varieties I have not seen for sale anywhere else.
Did I miss your favorite heirloom seed company? Do you have other questions about garden seeds? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Linda shares, “I wanted to tell you of another of my favorite seed companies, Territorial Seeds in Cottage Grove, Oregon. They have been a favorite of mine for many years.
I do find different plant seeds offered by other companies and enjoy trying something new, but of all the places I order from Pinetree and Territorial are my favorites. And Territorial has the best packaging of any of them, providing a picture and great instructions.”
Michele agrees, “Some other seed sites I recommended are, Territorial Seed Co. (carries some good OP varieties, even some from our good Dr. Kepuler) and a little seed-saver, Annapolis Seeds (Nova Scotia). I love Baker Creek, too.”
May shares, “The Kitazawa seed company (Salt Lake City, Utah) has a large inventory of Asian plants. They will mail you a catalog , which has Asian recipes in the back.”
Ashley fights cabin fever with seed catalogs. “The catalogs we use are Vermont Bean Co., Totally Tomatoes, Maine Potato Lady, Richters, and Bakers Creek. Bakers Creek is my favorite of them all!”
Debra noted that there may be some changes afoot. “I just got a catalog of seeds by the former owner of Vermont Bean Seed Company. That means that someone bought them out, as well.
I think it was Jung’s Seeds. I have not been nearly as satisfied with them since they started acquiring other companies either.
The new catalog seems promising. It is called SeedsnSuch (Augusta, Georgia). The front of the catalog claims untreated and non GMO seeds. They have several pack sizes that seem to favor the home gardener.”
Laurel's favorite: “I have ordered from Mary’s Heirloom (Ben Wheeler, Texas) and she is very helpful and very personable. She is down to earth and she is growing as a company. I think they have over 400 seed varieties and she takes the safe seed pledge.”
Patty gives a shout out to Sow True Seeds: “Living in SC, I have used the seed company Sow True Seeds. They are based in Asheville, NC.
They have a smaller than usual selection, but it is still wonderful and very useful for someone growing in a mountainous area, as they have certain varieties that do well in those conditions. I’ve pre-ordered my garlic and potatoes from them for this year.
They are a small company that is very responsive to their customers. I also second the company Pinetree Seeds. I have had wonderful germination from them and appreciate the smaller quantities in the packs asking with the price to go with them!
Gigi's choice: “I love Ohio Heirloom Seeds too… I have really enjoyed their seeds and the guy who owns it is super nice. The seeds come packaged very nicely, their prices are good and they come quickly.
For Colorado gardeners, Shannon says, “You should add Heirloom Mountain Seedswoman. It’s local to me so I love it they ship super fast.”
Amy says, “The MI Gardener has some great seeds and are very reasonable, most are $2!”
More Gardening Articles
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- Seed Starting Indoors – Step By Step Guide
- Types of Tomatoes (Best Uses, Flavors, and Plant Sizes)
Originally posted in 2011, last updated in 2023.