Expiration Date on Flower Seeds

moonblooms(z8 AL)February 20, 2006

I received my order of seeds in January. Quite a few of the packets had an expiration date (sell by date) of Feb. and April 06. I'm wondering if I was sent old seed. The seeds were from a reputable company often mentioned on this board. Any thoughts out there?

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I can honestly say that we have never received seed with an expiration/sell by date. The information provided on our packages is Lot Number, Germination Test Date, and Percentage of Germination. That's basically what we need to know should we have any problems. We continue to use euphorbia seed that we purchased for the 2002 season. Germination percentage is the same as when the company tested it: 94%


    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 10:35AM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

I've never seen an expiration/sell-by date on a seed package. Where did you get them, and what kinds are they?

Some seeds have better germination when they are old than others. For instance, delphinium seed germinates way worse when it's a year old than when it's new. The difference is bad enough that a lot of growers don't even attempt to grow old delph seeds. Compare that to sunflower seeds, which seem to germinate no matter how old they get, and the euphorbia Trish mentioned, and you'll understand why I asked what kinds of seed you have.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 12:26PM
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moonblooms(z8 AL)

Trish and Jeanne,

After reading your replies, you both had me doubting myself. But, yes, there are "sell by" dates on my seeds from Johnny's.

Cockscomb Celosia Chief Mix: Min. germ. 65% 01/05, Sell by 01/06.
White Mignoette: Min. Germ. 55% 02/05, sell by 02/06.

Also, some of the Benary Giant Zinnias seeds just received had sell by dates of 02/06. Others had sell by dates of 04/06 and 07/06.

I was just curious about this. I'm the type of person who when buying groceries, looks for the freshest date. But, now I've learned that with some seeds, freshest isn't always the best. I'll just keep planting and hope for the best.

I certainly didn't have any trouble with Johnny's tomato and pepper seeds. To my husband's dismay, every single seed has produced a nice healthy start. He just counted 150 plants that need to go in the ground soon.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 10:06AM
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The seed industry has set certain standards. I checked into the expiration/sell by date issue. That is a new requirement this season set by the industry. Your seeds are viable for alot longer than the dates on the packaging according to a company representative. Seed companies are required to do a germination test every six months. Also, vegetable seeds have a longer shelf life than flower and herb seeds. We're still using basil, dill and cilantro from 2003!!

Our seed which we received last December, didn't have the expiration/sell by date. They must have flown under the radar. Our next big shipment of seed is due the end of February. I'll be watching for the dates even though the lot numbers, germination testing, and percentage will also be listed.

Reseda Mignonette is technically an annual; however, it did come back for us. The second year produced longer, 36" stems. With the celosia, Chief Mix, you'll be able to save seed for next season.

FWIW Johnny's Seeds have very high standards. I wouldn't be concerned about those dates on your seed packages.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 11:02AM
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Curious, I checked my just-received order from Select Seeds. All packages are marked "Packed for 06" and "Sell by 12/31/06".

Seems it would be a good idea for the seed companies to put a notice in their catalogs and on packages to the effect that "these seeds may be viable past the sell-by-date". We are all so accustomed to tossing foods and medicines if past the expiration date, I suspect many new gardeners might throw away unused seed after this 06 season.

I'm glad I read this. I just garden for my own use and have gardened for many years but since I've not tried many seeds before, I might have thought the seeds were only good for this one year. josh

    Bookmark   February 23, 2006 at 4:31AM
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annebert(6b/7a MD)

I have flower and vegetable seeds that are more than 10 years old and still have very high germination %. Stored in the fridge in glass jars most of that time.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2006 at 11:54AM
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pollieplumm(Liverpool, UK)

Nearly all seed packs have had expiration dates for about ten years in the UK.

However, I second annebert's remarks: I once sowed some sweet william seeds that my mother had saved from her plants ten years previously and they germinated well.

I would point out, however, that no seed improves with keeping, rather some deteriorate at a slower rate than others.

Keep on sowing!


    Bookmark   February 25, 2006 at 3:31PM
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I wasn't aware that there are new regulations, but the older ones (which may be different by state) was that they needed to be tested every year. They could be pulled and retested at the end of the year and if the germination rate was still within standards then they could repackage with a new date.
All Johnny's seeds had dates on them in the past, but it was the germination test date.
Most packages you buy retail will give a date or "packaged for 2005" or whatever.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 10:14PM
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The new standard set by the seed industry is that seeds are to be tested every six months. Thus, the expiration dates some companies are noting on their packaging. Moonblooms expiration date of February '06 simply means the seed
was tested for germination August '05. The expiration date of April '06 means the seed was tested for germination October '05. Whether the expiration date is posted on the packaging is apparently up to the company because a standard is simply a model. Some seed vendors will continue to use the germination test date. This isn't a state regulation.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 3:51AM
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I have notice one of my favorite companies switched to plastic pouches vs the paper envelopes. Could this be due to wanting a longer shelf life?

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 4:48PM
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