Use these tips to store your seeds at home and keep them viable as long as possible. There are lots of options using an assortment of containers so long as the seeds are kept cool and dry.
Need to keep your seeds organized? This shows a simple way to keep seed organized and easy to find.
The Best Way to Store Garden Seeds
If you grow plants from seed in a home garden, you know how comforting it is to always have a big seed stash on hand. Along with seeds as food security, it’s pretty incredible to think how many future vegetables, flowers, and herbs are stored in those little packets.
But the reality is that seeds only stay viable for so long. Once they are harvested, dried, and stored, the clock is running.
Some species last longer than others but all will lose their vigor and viability over time. There’s no firm “use by” date by instead a gradual decline.
To make seeds last as long as possible, we need to keep them cool and dry.
Along with the right storage, it’s also smart to always use your oldest seeds first. And, replenish your seed collection each year, sharing any surplus along the way.
So what is the best way to store seeds at home?
For short-term storage (a year or two), it varies by plant type and conditions but, in general, if your home has fairly consistent indoor temperatures (around 70°F or 21°C or cooler) and average relative humidity (60% or less), keeping seed packets in a shoe box or bin in dark closet is likely all you need to do.
If your conditions vary too much or you want longer-term storage (2 years+), it’s better to store seeds in airtight containers and use a fridge if you can.
- We suggest airtight containers because seeds pull moisture from the air and this will help prevent that.
- The lower temperatures in a fridge slow a seed’s metabolic rate, extending how long it remains viable.
The tips below will help determine the best storage options based on your specific conditions.
You may want a simple thermometer and hygrometer unit like this one to monitor indoor temperatures and humidity levels.
There is a free tip sheet available in the Resources section.
- Seed Storage Tips
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Seed Viability Chart
Seed Storage Tips
- Start with mature, dry seeds.
Successful seed storage starts with freshly collected, viable, dry seeds.
By “dry,” we don’t mean dried-out but instead with moisture levels somewhere around 5 to 13%—the same standards that commercial seed sellers follow.
If you are saving seeds from your garden, you will want to ensure you harvest physiologically mature seeds (otherwise they will not be viable) and dry them sufficiently prior to storage.
Labels or Tags
- Keep track of your seeds.
Do yourself a huge favour and keep your seeds identified.
If you have seed packets—hang onto them, otherwise write index cards for each type of seed or a master inventory sheet, listing essential information.
This may include:
- Name / Botanical name.
- Seed source (seed company or where you got them).
- Age of seeds (date collected or dried or purchased).
- Expected lifespan.
- Sowing and growing tips including any recommended seed preparations, best growing conditions, days to germinate, days to harvest.
- Choose containers that keep the seeds safe (dry), fit your storage space, and make it easy to find what you need.
It’s perfectly fine—and recommended—to keep your seeds in their original seed packets.
From there, you may also want to protect the packets by placing them in resealable plastic bags, wide mouth jars, or Tupperware containers depending on your conditions.
- Plastic Ziplock bags are fine unless pests or excess humidity are an issue.
- If mice, insects, or other pests might get the seeds, place your packets in chew-proof containers. This could be Tupperware or food storage containers, glass jars, or metal tins.
- Airtight containers are recommended for fridge or freezer storage or if your home has high humidity levels. Adding desiccant packs (silica gel packs) will also help absorb excess moisture within the containers.
- If your seeds will be exposed to light in storage, you could also choose opaque containers (not see-through) to minimize light exposure.
Functionality and aesthetics also matter. Unless using the fridge/freezer, pick containers that make it easy and enjoyable to browse your seed collection. There is more on this in the Organization section.
Storage Options (depending on conditions):
House (Not Hot or Humid)
1-2 Years Maximum
- Seed packets in a shoe box
- Paper envelopes
- Wax paper envelopes
- Photo or video storage boxes
- Binders with plastic collector card holders
- Plastic bags
Hot/Humid House or Fridge or Freezer
- Tupperware or other food storage containers with lids
- Mason jars with lids (may break in freezer)
- Plastic food savers with lids
- Heavy duty freezer bags
Got Pests? Make sure you choose containers insects or animals cannot get into.
The photo box seed storage system has become popular in recent years. I’m not a fan but you might like it.
- Choose a simple organization system that is logical and easy to maintain.
A well-organized seed storage system helps ensure your seeds get used.
I have used so many organizing systems over the years until finally settling on this simple way to keep seeds organized. It works for the long-term because it’s intuitive and so easy to maintain.
Think of this like a basic filing system.
- Create a section (bag) for each type of seed (Beans, Broccoli, and so on.)
I use these printable labels from my shop to tag them.
- Place oldest seeds at the front (so you use them first) and/or write their expiry year on packet. The Seed Viability Chart (below) lists typical seed lifespans.
- As seeds run low, add them to a re-order list.
My home tends to have fairly consistent indoor temperatures (around 70°F or 21°C). The humidity is high in the summer and low in the winter so I keep my seeds in a basement room where conditions are more stable. My seeds are organized by basic groupings in plastic bags filed alphabetically in bins. You can see my seed storage method here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it ok to store seeds in plastic bags?
This is an excellent question and the answer depends on your circumstances. Seeds need to stay dry and cool in storage. If your seeds have been properly dried (the way seed companies do it), and your storage location has moderate or low humidity (below 60%), there should be no problem using plastic bags. That’s what I use.
You won’t want to use plastic bags if pests are an issue since they’ll chew right through them.
Should I store seeds in my fridge?
Storing seeds in the fridge is a good option, particularly if your household conditions are too warm and/or humid and/or you want the seeds to last longer than a year or two.
The drawbacks to fridge storage are that conditions may fluctuate, especially is the fridge is multi-use. And, space may be limited so you have to give up nicely sorted seeds to fit them in more compact containers.
If you choose fridge storage, use airtight containers to reduce the chance of excess moisture damaging the seeds.
Power outages may create inconsistent storage conditions but unless you have a power generator or some other backup this may not be avoidable. Just do the best you can.
Fridge & Freezer Storage Tip
It’s best to keep seeds cool and dry at consistent temperatures.
Keep an inventory sheet outside the fridge or freezer so you don’t have to disturb the seeds while planning your garden.
Should I store seeds in a freezer?
Freezer storage is recommended for some seeds but not all. For example, seeds from tropical trees including avocado have high moisture levels and cannot survive freezing conditions.
Before storing seeds in a freezer, check whether it is recommended for your seed type, use airtight containers, and ensure a consistent temperature and low-moisture can be maintained.
Seed Thawing Tip
If seeds have been stored in a fridge or freezer, allow them to reach room temperature before opening the containers. This will help prevent condensation from forming.
Seed Viability Chart
How long do seeds last?
This chart lists the average lifespan of seeds stored under best conditions (good quality seeds stored in cool temperatures with low moisture levels).
The time estimates (listed in years) come from a variety of sources including seed companies and researchers. Sources vary quite a bit so take this as a general guideline only.
Also note that pelleted seeds—seeds that come with a coating for easier handling—lose their viability much sooner than regular seeds and should be used right away.
Is there a test to know if seeds will germinate?
Yes, this shows how to test your seeds for viability indoors at home.
Asian Greens (3 years)
Alyssum (3-5 years)
Amaranthus (4-5 years)
Angelica (2 years)
Anise (2 years)
Aquilegia (Columbine) (1-2 years)
Artichoke (1-5 years)
Artemisia (1-5 years)
Arugula (2-6 years)
Asclepias (1 years)
Asparagus (3-4 years)
Aster (1 years)
Basil (3-5 years)
Beans (2-4 years)
Beets (2-5 years)
Borage (1-4 years)
Broccoli (2-5 years)
Brussels sprouts (3-5 years)
Cabbage (3-5 years)
Calendula (4-6 years)
Caraway (1-2 years)
Carnation (3-5 years)
Carrots (3-4 years)
Catnip (3 years)
Cauliflower (4-5 years)
Celery / Celeriac (3-5 years)
Celosia (2-4 years)
Chamomile (4 years)
Chard (2-5 years)
Chervil (1-4 years)
Chicory (4-5 years)
Chives (1-3 years)
Cilantro/Coriander (1-4 years)
Collards (3-5 years)
Corn (1-3 years)
Cosmos (3-5 years)
Cress (5 years)
Cumin (1-3 years)
Cucumber (3-6 years)
Dahlia (2-5 years)
Daisy (3 years)
Delphinium (1-3 years)
Dianthus (Sweet William) (3-5 years)
Digitalis (Foxglove) (1-2 years)
Dill (1-4 years)
Echinacea (Coneflower) (4 years)
Eggplant (4-5 years)
Endive / Escarole (5 years)
Fennel (1-2 years)
Hyacinth Bean (3-5 years)
Hyssop (1-4 years)
Impatiens (1-2 years)
Kale (3-5 years)
Kohlrabi (3-5 years)
Larkspur (1-3 years)
Lavender (1-3 years)
Leeks (2-3 years)
Lemon Balm (1-4 years)
Lemon Grass (3 years)
Lentils (1-2 years)
Lettuce (1-6 years)
Lisianthus (2-3 years)
Lovage (1-3 years)
Lupine (3-5 years)
Marigold (2-5 years)
Marjoram (1-4 years)
Melons (3-6 years)
Mint (4 years)
Monarda (Bee Balm) (4 years)
Mustard (4 years)
Nasturtium (3-7 years)
Nigella (3-5 years)
Okra (2-3 years)
Onions (1-2 years)
Oregano (4 years)
Pansy (1-2 years)
Parsley (1-4 years)
Parsnip (1-3 years)
Peas (2-4 years)
Peppers (2-5 years)
Phlox (1-3 years)
Poppy (2-4 years)
Pumpkins (4-6 years)
Purslane (3-5 years)
Radish (4-5 years)
Rhubarb (4 years)
Rosemary (1-4 years)
Rutabagas (3-5 years)
Sage (1-3 years)
Salvia (1-3 years)
Salsify (1-2 years)
Savory (1-4 years)
Scabiosa (2-5 years)
Snapdragon (3-5 years)
Soybean (3-5 years)
Spinach (1-5 years)
Squash, Gourds (3-6 years)
Statice (1-2 years)
Stock (4-5 years)
Strawberry (5 years)
Strawflower (1-2 years)
Sunflower (3-5 years)
Sweet Pea (3-5 years)
Thyme (1-4 years)
Tomatoes (3-7 years)
Turnip (4-5 years)
Valerian (2-3 years)
Verbena (1-5 years)
Viola (1-2 years)
Watermelon (4-5 years)
Yarrow (3-5 years)
Zinnia (2-5 years)
I know what you’re thinking: I’ve had seeds last longer than the timespans listed here. And so have I! I’ve got tomato seeds I saved over 20 years ago that are still going strong. But that’s a big exception and not something to rely on. Best to be conservative with our estimates and continue replenishing our seed collections accordingly.
Optimum Seed Storage
Seeds need to be kept dry and cool in darkness for optimal storage.
- Short-term (1-2 years), room temperature (70°F/21°C or lower) and moderate or low humidity (60% or less) is fine for most seeds.
- Longer-term (2+ years) or if household conditions are not optimal, store seeds in refrigerator using airtight containers.
To remain viable, seeds must be mature when harvested and properly dried before storing.
The goal during storage is to keep the seeds cool and dry, in darkness, safe from pests.
A combination thermometer-hygrometer is helpful for measuring indoor temperatures and humidity levels.
- Commercial seeds have been dried to low moisture levels suited to storage.
- If you save your own seeds, learn how to achieve the right (low) moisture levels for storage.
If you want to store new seeds for just a year or two, this should be fine:
- Store seeds in a dark cupboard with room temperature staying around 70°F or 21°C or lower and moderate relative humidity (60% or less). Stashing the seed packets in a shoebox works! Use critter-proof containers if pests are a problem.
If your household conditions fluctuate too much and/or you want longer-term storage:
- Store seeds in airtight containers in fridge. Temperatures should stay between 32-41°F (0-5°C).
- Freezer storage (0°F or -18°C or a bit lower) requires lower seed moisture levels (around 5%) and is only suitable for some seed types.
- If moisture is a concern, use silica gel packs in your containers.
Empress of Dirt
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Seed Storage Tips & Viability Chart
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- Simple Seed Guide: From Hybrids to Heirlooms
- Getting Started With Seed Saving (Flowers, Fruit, & Vegetables)
- How the Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway Stores Seeds
- The Empress of Dirt Printable Garden Planner includes seed inventory tracking sheets.
- Use these printable plant name templates to print out labels for your seed containers.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛