Long term seed storage?

Hello everyone,

I just recently, legally, imported very difficult to obtain seeds from Europe and given the international shipping, they were quite expensive. Unfortunately, I had some pretty abrupt life changes and will probably be unable to grow them out until possibly as far out as 2 years from now. Most of the species I purchased have naturally long seed viability windows but regardless of the seed, germination rates decline as time goes on. I’ve been researching and it looks like the three biggest factors for seed degradation are light, heat and moisture. The only pre-made long term storage option I found online are these little silicone bead packed glass vials found here:

While these do look good, given the number of seeds I purchased, it would take a small fortune to buy enough vials to cover me.

I was wondering if anyone has any experience in long term seed storage? My current plan is to copy the pre-made vials above. Essentially buy a bunch of vials (but amber colored to reduce UV exposure) for less than a buck a piece, fill them with silicone beads and a layer of cotton. Then take those and stick them in a vacuum sealed mason jar and throw them in the back of the freezer.

Any input is appreciated!


I am not sure if a freezer is necessary. The process before the freezer sounds fine as long as you keep them out of sunlight and probably in a cool location. I keep mine in my basement and it only gets about 68 in the summer and about 62 in the winter. I have had seeds from 2000 that have still come up when I planted them last year and this year.
Good luck!!


Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

You missed one of the important factors in seed storage. Oxygen is a no-no. Seed should be sealed so oxygen does not enter the container. Seed type is the other factor. If you can list the species involved, I can tell you how to store them long term.

Lettuce and onion seed should be stored in a freezer at 0F in sealed glass containers. Life is 3 years max.

Beans, corn, peas, also 0F glass containers, but life is 10 to 15 years. (exception for sweet corn, life is 4 years)

Curcurbits of all types also 0F glass containers, but life is 7 to 8 years.

Cotton and Okra seed also 0F glass or plastic containers, life is 10+ years (I planted 10 year old cotton seed this year)

Peanuts, peppers, tomatoes, 0F glass or plastic containers, life is 3 to 5 years, be careful with peppers

Pecans and walnuts can be stored in sealed containers for 2 years max, germination goes down fast

Any other species, ask.

Moisture absorbing gel/crystals should be used for all seed except species that require moisture to remain viable.

General rule, seed should be stored cold and dry. Coconuts are an exception, never let coconut get dry. Oak acorns are another species that does not store very well, best if never dried.

P.s. cheap seed storage jars, find someone with a baby and ask them to save baby food jars. Also, you can pack seed in small ziploc bags, put a bunch of them in a quart jar with moisture absorber, put the jar in a gallon ziploc bag, then freeze the whole thing.


I would look up on amazon “mylar bag with oxygen absorbers”, and get the bag sizes you require.

Put the seeds and oxygen absorbers in the mylar bags, push excess air out and then use an iron to hermetically seal the mylar bag shut. In a day or so, it should look like vacuum sealed package. Some long term storage seeds are sold this way in mylar bags.


Thank you @Fusion_power, @sockworth and @MikeC. I was also considering getting oxygen absorbers but figured moisture control beads are more important. Do you all think the vials with moisture beads followed by the mylar bags + oxygen absorbers would be ideal? I already have most of these materials available.

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I’m going to add some detail so the above information makes more sense.

Most seed is shipped in paper envelopes of one sort or another. Do not put paper in the freezer. Put the paper seed pack in a small ziploc bag first. When you remove the seed from the freezer, moisture will condense on the cold seed which can affect their viability, especially if they are re-frozen afterward. By putting the seed pack in a ziploc, moisture condenses on the ziploc and can be removed or let air dry.

Why put a quart jar in a gallon ziploc? If the glass jar breaks, it will be contained inside the ziploc. No mess, just empty the ziploc somewhere safe and pick out the seed packs.

Otherwise, cold, dry, no light, and no oxygen. As above, some species must stay moist!


I have been saving all of my left over seeds since I started gardening in my current location about 45 years ago. I don’t do anything special with the seeds except store them in a freezer. They are all in their original packets placed in 2 cardboard shipping boxes that are both placed in a used plastic fertilizer bag. The bag is closed but not sealed. This minimal protection allows most of the seeds to retain viability for several years, long enough to use up the surplus seeds. My impression of seed life is that it depends greatly on the variety as well as the species (and the quality of the source). For instance, I have the tomato variety Crimsonvee that I bought in 1993; and I’ve grown plants from those seeds every year since then, including this year. I’m pretty sure that moden hybrids wouldn’t come close to that longevity, but it is no longer necessary because seed packets these days typically contain so few seeds. On the other hand, I’ve bought salsify seeds that would never sprout, even when planted the first year.

I don’t doubt that all of the protective measures mentioned above will increase seed life, but it may not be necessary most of the time.


What kind of seed ?
That would help with a answer.

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Depends on the type of seeds, as others have said above. If you list all the seeds you have to store, you’ll get much more accurate answers.

i have mine in a o ring sealed snap down lid , plastic tub in the freezer with a o2 tab in there. i also put them in ziplocks with the package taped on the outside.

Dry bean seeds in mason jar in freezer…over 90% germination after 18 years.
Dry bean seed (same batch and same species) put in second jar and stored at outside temperatures (unheated and uncooled) 0% germination after 20 years.


Hillbillyhort, if you are referring to my comment, I have grown just about every common vegetable from seeds; but, as I said, viability depends on the variety as well as the species. So, it is practically impossible to list all of the possibilities.

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Sorry for the late response everyone! The only seeds I’m particularly concerned about are ribes aureum (golden currant) and alpine strawberry seeds. If anyone has info on their specific storage it would be appreciated!

Currently I’m trying out different vegetable varieties and I’m only concerned with 1-2 years storage. Can I just keep my saved seed in a paper envelope for this period of time (inside house conditions)? Later I will move on to longer storage. Examples are okra, tomatoes, green beans, and squash.

Ribes seed …

From “seeds of woody plants in the United States”
(“ seeds buried in the soil inverted open containers for 13 years still showed 70 to 94% viability “)
Looks like easy keepers !

Don’t know about the strawberries?


Wow, this is great news! Sounds like I really don’t need to do much of anything compared to what I was initially planning. What book is this? I love the amount of detail.

Thank you!


A great reference book!
Has many fruit species in there.

That’s a quarter at the bottom, so a substantial book.
I use it often .

From Abies— ziziphus


It’s also available as a free download:


And I think it’s the same info as the “Woody Plant Seed Guide” that was updated in 2008:


Auburn, re storing vegetable seed at room temperature, sweet corn, carrots, onions, and lettuce should be in your freezer in a sealed jar. Otherwise, common garden seed like beans, peas, radishes, turnips, okra, and others can be stored at room temperature. Viability should be good for at least 3 years.


I have done that for years. Usually the % or germination goes down and in anticipation of that, I sow the seed too thick to compensate. (And have thinning to do sometimes.)

(In my youth, a freezer or refrigerator was NOT an option…but I have put a few drops of kerosene in a jar of seeds to keep bugs from eating them…the same kerosene that
fueled the lamp I did homework by, btw.)