Will last years seeds grow?

Walmart is having a sale on seeds. Nothing makes me happier than saving money, and when it's on gardening...that's all the better! Now, there is a chance that your Walmart isn't having a sale on seeds, but chances are your local hardware store, big box store or home store is. 

Be forewarned that these bargain seeds come with a down side. They may be 'expired'. This brings us to the question: are expired seeds still good? Are they viable? Will they still grow? What will the plants be like? Is it a good idea to plant expired seeds or will it be one of my big Seed Starting Mistakes?

Expired seeds can grow

All the seeds packaged for last years growing season have a 'sell by' date of the end of last year on them. The questions is "How much does it really matter?" Well sometimes it matters a lot, and other times not at all. The quick answer though, is that last years seeds will be just fine! 

If you're trying to plant seeds from 5 years ago though, there might be a slight germination problem.

How seeds age

A seed is alive inside, and as long as it remains alive it can germinate and grow. These seeds will produce plants just as healthy as if it had been their first year! There is no difference in the plants from old seeds versus new seeds, just the germination rate.

The older the seeds are though, the more chance that their germination rate has been affected. With brand new seeds you can expect a germination rate around 100%...so pretty much every seed you plant should grow. As the seeds age though, that germination rate will drop.

Will expired seeds still grow?

3 different factors come into play when using old seeds: age, type and storage.

Age: all seeds will be viable for a year...many for 2 years, some as long as 6 years....or maybe even more.

Type: Things like peppers and corn don't store well for long periods, but lettuce and cucumber last much longer. I've used 3 year old bean seeds with no problem. I've sprouted tomato seeds from 5 years back, and currently have some basil growing from 6 year old seeds.

Storage: Cool and dark is optimal.

What does this all mean?

Well, did the store have the seeds stored properly? I'm guessing they were in a box in the warehouse all winter. That sounds like cool and dark to me. 

They are only 1 year old. They are only $.10 each. (now granted these weren't expensive seeds to begin with, but I digress) My point here is that even if you need to germinate a few extra seeds to get your desired amount of plants, you're saving money in the long run.

Expired seeds

If you're not sure if the seeds are germinating, try pre germinating a few seeds to find out.

Chances are you don't use a whole seed packet for every type of plant anyway. For things like pumpkins, cucumbers or peppers I only want 6 plants. Flowers I plant more of, but still often have seeds left over. 

Which brings me back to the 3 factors I mentioned before. Your leftover seeds from last year or the year before follow those rules also.

So store your seeds in a cool, dark place and try to use them up in 2 years. Ideally, let a few plants go to seed and save some of your own...but feel free to search the bargain bin for new varieties. You'll still get great results from last years seeds.


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will expired seeds grow?


  1. Thanks for the tip! I bought some expired seeds just this week, so I hope that they are still good!

    1. If they're from last year, they should be fine. Good luck!


  2. Love this article. I have some seeds that just didn't germinate.


    Cottage Making Mommy

  3. My mom gave me her cherished seed box a couple years ago & this past spring I sorted thru it. I found seeds from 1984-1999. For grins & giggles I planted the 1984 seeds (cilantro & parsley) & as I expected they didn't germinate. I also planted spinach and lettuce from 1996 & to my surprise I had around 50% germination (not exact because I wasn't measuring to the seed). Just goes to show when in doubt toss them in the garden-you never know what will come up!

    1. Oh wow, that is really awesome! It's amazing how long seeds can last when stored properly. I would have been so excited if seeds that old germinated!