How Long Do Seeds Last?

About four or five years ago, after re-reading the Little House on the Prairie series for the umpteenth time I decided I was intrigued by these food stuffs she referred to as “ground cherries”. It was at about this time that my urge for increased domesticity and self-sufficiency kicked in (that Christmas was the first time I made jam for Christmas presents).

Upon doing some research I discovered that it was hard to find ground cherry seedlings to buy (though this may have changed since), but that I could source some seeds. Which I promptly did. I, just as promptly, failed to plant any of them. At the time I was living in an apartment/unit that had a small paved courtyard. I was also working two jobs and studying at university, so despite my need to garden it always got put on the back burner.

Three years ago when we moved into this house, the seeds came along for the ride and promptly got popped into the garden shed. And just as promptly forgotten about. I unearthed them two days ago when on a hunt for a tape measure (I never did find the tape measure).

Ground Cherry Seeds


They’ve been in the same sealed plastic packets they arrived in(so presumably no moisture snuck in), but they have been subjected to the crazy weather extremes (40 degree days during Summer and 5 degree nights during Winter) that happen around here.

But it gets me wondering, how long do seeds last for? Is it worth trying to grow some – or is it too late in the season? I’d love some advice or suggestions…otherwise I may succumb to temptation and try planting them anyway…


Have you ever tried growing seeds after a long delay? Or bought something and then forgotten all about using it?

9 thoughts on “How Long Do Seeds Last?

  1. I have seen a lot of different information in my Internet research. But I will be doing some firsthand research soon, as my mother-in-law gave me a whole big bag of seeds she’s used, some of which have been stored for a couple of years. Come spring, I am going to plant the warm season veggies and see what happens. I have planted some lettuce and radishes from the bag, and they have grown very well.

    • The info I’ve seen says somewhere around 3-4 years (assuming they’re stored properly), but I’d love to know how yours turn out! Glad to hear the lettuce and radishes have grown, that’s always a plus.
      I have a feeling that in a week a or two I won’t be able to resist and mine will be going into pots 🙂

      • Yeah, the 3-4 years seemed to be the average, though I saw just enough conflicting info to not be sure. These seeds have just been in ziploc bags and the original paper packets, so they weren’t in the freezer or tightly closed even. But some have grown already, and there are so many – pumpkins, beans, corn, squash, peppers, tomatoes, all kinds!! – that it’s worth trying. I have seeds from other veggies that I saved this year, and they have also been in ziplocs, but I am hoping to get some fridge or freezer storage squared away soon and keep them good for longer. Maybe do some comparing and experimenting too!

        Post if you do plant those seeds!! I want to know if they grow!! 😀

  2. I know it depends on the type of seed, but it’s always worth trying to grow them. I grew some watermelons that my dad had from the year I was born this year (that’s 24 years ago). Granted, they were stored in the fridge, but I doubt 4-5 years would cause a huge problem.
    I don’t know about if you should plant them now since I don’t know where you are, but you should be able to find some planting guides online for your area. Do you have a local university that might have info?
    For future reference, the best way to store seeds is in a glass jar in your fridge. I have a post about it on my blog http://fortressofcrunchitude.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/how-to-store-seeds-outside-of-norway/

    • Yeah, all seeds are now stored in ziplock bags (to keep out moisture) in the fridge! These ones seem to have just slipped through the cracks. I suspect it’s too late in the season to plant them here, but rumour has it I’m getting a greenhouse for Christmas so it might be enough to get them grown…

  3. Depending on how many seeds you have, try a germination test. Put them on kitchen paper (or tissues) in a saucer, and keep them damp, and see if they sprout. I have just germinated chillies from a ten years old wreath.
    I’m trying to think of the other name of those darned things – you have to grow a heck of a lot of them to get much of a yield.

  4. That’s how I managed to get my tomato seeds to sprout (of course, it turns out that they were also sprouting in my punnets and I just didn’t realise…)!
    I have to admit I succumbed to temptation and planted some of them tonight to see what happens, but maybe I’ll do some your way, too, and compare notes!

  5. Pingback: {Report} How Long Do Seeds Last? | on the ning nang nong

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