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If you’ve ever noticed a packet of seeds you own or were going to buy at the store have an expiration date on them, you’re probably wondering why. Do seeds actually go bad?

Seeds don’t actually expire or “go bad”. They may not go rotten or smell bad, but the longer they’re sitting around not being used, the greater the chances are most of them won’t grow, or be viable.

So how can you keep them viable longer?

Store Them Properly

You may not want to use all your seeds in one year, so what do you do to keep your seeds longer?

Just like a lot of other things, how you store them will be important.

You’ll want to put them in an airtight container, such as a glass jar. Or, if you have them, mylar bags.

Then, you’ll want to store them in a cool, dark, dry place until you’re ready to use them again.

Of course, this won’t keep them viable indefinitely, but it’ll buy you another year. Or up to 5 years with some seeds.

So, which seeds are going to last a year and which ones will last longer? I’ve got you covered!

The seeds that’ll only last a year:

  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Parsnips

2 years:

  • Corn
  • Peppers
  • Leeks
  • Swiss Chard

3 years:

  • Beans (all)
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Squash
  • Peas

4 years:

  • Collards
  • Pumpkin
  • Tomato
  • Kale
  • Watermelon
  • Turnips

5 years:

  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cucumber
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Radish
  • Cauliflower

This is a guideline only. In some rare cases, seeds can grow well after their “expiration date”.

You’ll want to test them before you grow or toss them.

How to Test Seeds for Viability

You can test your seeds for viability a few different ways.

One way is to simply just plant a few. Some seeds germinate after only a few days, so with them, this isn’t going to take up a lot of space or time.

Another way to test your seeds is to place them in a damp paper and leave them a baggie for a few days.

You can also do the float test.

Put them in water. If your seeds float, they’re not viable anymore. If they sink, they still are…


To sum it all up, while seeds don’t necessarily “go bad” on their expiration date, the longer they sit, the less likely they’re still viable.

You can extend the life of your seeds (to a point) by storing them properly.

Meaning in an airtight container, such as a jar or a mylar bag. And keep them in a cool, dry, dark place.

You might also want to label and date your seeds or keep the original packet and tape it on your jar or bag, with the date visible (if any).

Instead of just throwing your seeds out if they’re beyond the recommended expiration date, test them, using the methods mentioned above. A damp paper towel and baggie, putting them in water and seeing if they float. Or just plant a few.

Happy Gardening!