Can I Sow Out Of Date Seeds?

The simple answer is yes but germination is not guaranteed. Very often, when you buy a pack of seeds you will probably have some left over. So, do you keep them for the next growing season or should you discard them and start again with fresh seeds? Much will depend on the type of plant seeds, whether they were hermetically sealed (vacuum packed), and how they have been stored since the pack was first opened. 

Some seed packets will display a “best before” date as an indicator but just because your seeds might appear to be out of date, doesn’t mean that there isn’t life left in them. Some types of plant seed can keep for a very long time.

Seed preservation

In the 1960s in the Masada fortress situated on the edge of the Dead Sea in Israel, some old seeds were discovered, including some Date Palm seeds. These particular seeds were estimated to be around 2000 years old and had been preserved due to the hot and dry climatic conditions. In 2006, the Date Palm seeds were planted and one of them germinated, making it the oldest seed in history to successfully grow into a plant. 

There are also many seed banks in various countries, including the Kew Garden’s Millennium Seed Bank in Sussex, which houses a collection of over 2.4 billion seeds from around the world. The seeds are preserved in sub-zero storage chambers and will survive for between 150 and 1000 years.  

How to know if your seeds are viable

The obvious answer is to sow them and see but there is another way of testing your seeds before you go all out with seed trays and compost. You will need some paper towelling, a water spray bottle and a plastic bag. Open out the towelling and spray with water. Place a few seeds on the towelling and fold it over. 

Next, place the towelling in a plastic bag and seal it. Don’t squeeze out the air as this is needed for germination. Make a note of the date and check to see how long the germination time should be. Then place the bag on a warm windowsill or in a greenhouse and wait. If the seeds germinate within the timeframe then you should be good to go. 

Why fresh seeds are always best

Generally, most vegetable seeds for example, will be viable for between 2 and 8 years. While old seeds might be fine, and they might grow into relatively healthy plants, they might not be as vigorous as plants grown from fresh seeds. Also, with the passage of time, the germination rate of the seeds will become significantly reduced. 

For example, you could get 10 fresh seeds germinate within the expected timeframe, while you might only get 5 seeds germinate if they are 12 months old or older. With fresh seed, you have the assurance that you will get a high germination rate and as long as the seedlings are cared for, you should end up with healthy plants.


Do you have any good seed sowing tips? Leave a comment below and let everyone know....


All blog content on this page is copyright of SimplySeed and is not to be reproduced without prior written permission. ©


Latest Blog Posts...