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Orchid Lady
I know there was a brief chat on one of the threads the other day about using out of date seeds, but I don't think we got a conclusive answer. Going through my seeds this morning, I have quite a few that are out of date, some by 2 years. They are all seeds that I either got free or that my mum gave me, so no money wasted. Any thoughts as to whether they will be ok or not? Thanks. T

You don't having anything to loose other than a bit of compost, which can be recycled. I would have a go, but don't rely on them, have alternatives.

Sew them a bit earlier ( bit) than usual and see if they germinate, maybe only a small % will, all, or none.

Certain seeds last for years beyond the sew by date, others are more fussy. Just have a go.

Something else to watch Tracey


I don't think there is a conclusive answer Tracey. It depends what they are, how they're packed and how they've been stored.

As KEF says, sow them and see


Hi Tracey. There is no definitive answer Im  afraid. Some seeds remain viable for many years eg. poppies which can remain viable for hundreds of years, whereas others need to be sown fresh. Some Hellebores for instance need sowing as soon as ripe.

If you have the space try them, but if they are seeds you really need to perform, then I would buy fresh.


 'No definite answer' describes many aspects gardening. Some people will swear by one technique, others will throw up their hands in horror.

Everything depends on something and the somethings are very variable.

Somewhere there may be a thriving rhodendron on chalk, even though we all know they don't grow there


Orchid Lady
Some of them are poppies, which is am going to sow anyway. Others are sunflowers, I love sunflowers and have about 6 packs, I think I'll just sow them all and see what happens The veg I think I will buy new as I don't want to risk it not working and haven't really got the room/time to give it a go and it fail.

Thanks everyone

You can do a test germination with seeds that don't need a period of cold - put a few seeds on a piece of wet folded kitchen paper and observe whether they start to shoot. You can then sow any that do germinate, and it gives you an idea of the success rate if you sow the remainder.


Beans, runner and French, last several years after their sow by date, peas are OK too. I have used tomato and courgette seeds a year or two past their date. But parsnips must be fresh. Poppies last decades in the ground waiting for suitable conditions, they like the earth to be moved, so poppies should be fine. But French Marigolds that were 2 years past didn't work - but was it old age or something else?

Orchid Lady
Thanks land girl and Lizzie, I don't have any beans and I think the tomatoes and courgettes were in date. Never grown courgettes before so that should be interesting

 I have germinated seeds found in my FIL's shed after he died and most were 10 years old or more.  You don't know till you've tried but as others have said don't rely on them, have a back up supply if you really can't do without them this year.

Good luck Tracey.


Just had my newsletter from Garden Organic and they commented on old seeds;

Parsnips only last one year. For everything else, sprinkle a few on to damp kitchen paper and see if they germinate Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

flowering rose

some seeds will not keep beyond a year and others will grow years on and other seeds are sterile or will revert back to the parent plant.

Orchid Lady
Thanks everyone.....,,, take a chance it is then

Let us know how you get on! I'm tight fisted so would be more than willing to try anything before buying a replacement. Must go through my seeds this weekend!

You could take a scientific approach and put a few seeds in a moist sealed plastic bag. Label them and leave them on the window sill. You'll see which
and how many of each type germinate and sow your remaining seeds accordingly.

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