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How Long do Seeds Last? (w/ Printable Seed Viability Charts)

How long do seeds last? The oldest seed that's been grown into a plant is a 2,000 year old date palm, but your garden seeds probably won't last quite that long. We'll share seed viability charts, tips for storing seeds, and how to check germination rates.

glass gem heirloom corn seeds

How Long Do Seeds Last?

How long will seeds stay viable? It depends on the type of seed, and the storage conditions. Most should last at least a couple of years.

The seed viability charts below show typical years that seeds remain viable under cool, dry storage conditions.

Vegetable Seed Viability Chart

CropHow Many Years do They Last?Typical Days to Germination
Asparagus310
Bean, Lima38
Bean, Snap37
Beets44
Broccoli54
Brussels Sprouts54
Cabbage54
Carrot36
Cauliflower55
Celeriac511
Celery57
Chicory56
Chinese Cabbage54
Cucumber53
Eggplant56
Endive56
Kale54
Kohlrabi54
Leek37
Lettuce53
Muskmelon54
New Zealand Spinach56
Okra26
Onion1 – 26
Parsley213
Parsnip1 – 214
Pea36
Pepper48
Pumpkin44
Radish54
Rutabaga54
Salsify26
Spinach55
Squash54
Sweet corn1 – 23
Swiss Chard1 – 24
Tomato46
Turnip53
Watermelon54

Herb Seed Viability Chart

Plant TypeHow many years do they last?
Anise3
Basil5-7
Calendula3
Catnip5
Chives1
Cilantro5-7
Dill3
Fennel4
Lavender5
Oregano2
Parsley1
Sage3
Savory3
Thyme3

Flower Seed Viability Chart

Plant TypeHow many years do they last?
Ageratum4
Alyssum4
Amaranth4
Aster1
Baby's Breath2
Bachelor's Button3
Calendula5
Celosia4
Clarkia2
Coleus2
Columbine2
Cosmos3
Dahlia2
Daisy3
Delphinium1
Dianthus4
Foxglove2
Geranium1
Hibiscus3
Hollyhock3
Impatiens2
Larkspur1
Lobelia3
Lupine2
Marigold2
Naturtium3
Nicotiana3
Pansy2
Petunia3
Phlox1
Poppy4
Salvia1
Snapdragon3
Sweet Pea3
Verbena1
Zinnia5
Most annual flower seeds are viable for 1-3 years and perennial flower seed for 2-4 years.

When you're sorting through your saved seeds, you might want to mark the life expectancy on the seed packets to save time in the future.

My seeds often last longer than the expected storage times, but not always. For instance, I had one variety of 10 year old tomato seeds that came up great. With another variety, only one seed germinated out of ten.

I keep records for the seedlings I start inside, listing planting date, variety, germination rate, and other data. This allows me to keep track of whether or not I probably need fresh seeds, even if I have a lot left over.

You can get a copy of this and the other garden planning charts I use with your Common Sense Home newsletter subscription.

Mylar seed packet
Seeds packed in Mylar will last longer than those in paper packets.

Seed Storage Tips

Keep your saved seeds cool and dry, out of direct light and protected from pests. For mid-length storage, a cool closet shelf or basement cabinet will do. Avoid the kitchen, garage, or shed – the temperature changes too much.

If you want to try a home version of a long term seed vault, opt for an airtight container in the chest freezer. Chest freezers have less temperature swings than refrigerators or upright freezers. Bring your seed container to room temperature before opening it to avoid condensation on your seeds.

For more details, see “How to Store Seeds (for Next Year or Long Term)“,

Simple Germination Test

Before you hit the seed catalogs for fresh seeds, it doesn't hurt to test the seeds to see if they are viable with a simple germination test.

Moisten a paper towel or coffee filter, and place ten seeds on it. Fold the damp paper over the seeds and place it in a plastic bag or glass jar. Keep it warm and moist.

Check the seeds every two to three days for signs of germination. Some will germinate quickly, others may take 2-3 weeks. (Your seed packet may have information on expected time to germination. We have it listed in the charts for vegetables.)

simple germination test
A simple germination test helps tell if your seeds are still viable.

As long as you have some viable seeds, go ahead and use them. If germination rates are poor, plant seeds a LOT more thickly, or buy fresh seeds.

If you have a small garden, consider sharing seeds with friends to keep your stash fresh. When germination rates are low, you can try planting the seeds in an out of the way corner of the garden to see if they grow.

More Gardening Articles

We have over 100 gardening articles on the site, including:

How to Start a Garden – 10 Steps to Gardening for Beginners

Companion Planting in the Garden (The Easy Way) – Includes Printable Chart

10 Heirloom Seed Companies You Don't Want to Miss

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