Garden Tip: Do Seeds Expire?

Asking yourself the question: do seeds expire? Here's an easy way to tell if last year's garden seeds will still sprout.

Do Seeds Expire?

Garden Tip:How To Test Old Seeds

To test your seeds for viability, you need four simple things: paper towels, a plastic sandwich or zip-lock bag, water and your seeds.


Do seeds expire? Wondering if an outdated packet of seeds is still good to plant? Our garden expert Ann Wied has the scoop.

“Most flower and vegetable seeds will keep for a year without special protection; many remain viable for up to five years if stored in a cool, dark, dry place,” she says. “If you want to see if an expired packet of seeds is worth planting, try this: Put a few between two layers of moist paper towels, then place in a plastic bag. Punch a few small holes in it so the air can circulate.

“Keep the towels damp, checking for sprouting within the time listed on the packet. If only half of them germinate, sow the rest thickly, or don’t use them.”

Ann Wied is Consumer Horticulture Educator for the UW-Extension in Waukesha, County, Wisconsin.

Illustration by RDA USGB/Sylvia Bokor

Nancy Owens 1 April 8, 2014 at 10:48 am

Here is a tip for drying your own seeds: be sure to place them in a shallow dish that gets a lot of air. Mix the seeds around every so often to make sure the seed is completely dry before putting them in an envelope for the winter. I keep and dry a lot of seeds, like peppers, corn, bachelor buttons, and other vegetables and flowers, and have made the mistake of putting them in an envelope too soon. When I opened them the following spring, they were a bit moldy!


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