What is the difference between an heirloom seed and a regular seed?

In terms of growth, there is no difference between a relic seed and a regular seed.

Heirloom seeds

are only seeds of open-pollinated (non-hybrid) plant varieties that have been cultivated for a long time. However, traditional varieties tend to have some unique characteristics, such as different flavors or colors. Heirloom seeds are a special type of open pollinated seed.

These are plants that have remained the same for several decades. The plants created by a seed of the heirloom variety are the same from generation to generation. Relics are varieties of seeds that are at least 50 years old, and you can save these seeds and plant them year after year. Relics are never hybrids or GMOs.

Hybrids are crosses of relic varieties. If you save hybrid seeds, you won't get what you expect. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, and sometimes it doesn't work at all. They are created in a laboratory where the basic genetic material of the seed is altered, usually to make them resistant to a herbicide.

When the plant is pollinated by a plant of the same variety, or by self-pollination, it is an heir plant. Any seed from these plants retains the traits of its parent plant. Heirloom refers to the inheritance of the plant. With seed-grown plants, only open-pollinated varieties are considered relics.

Unlike hybrids, open-pollinated seeds reproduce “true to type”, which means that the offspring will show the same characteristics as the parent plant and the seeds can be saved from season to season. Seeds are generally considered relics if they were introduced to the crop at least 40 years before the current date, although some experts consider seed relics only if they were introduced before World War II. If you've been growing your heirloom seeds for a while, this means they work well in your geographic region. But what is really the difference between heirloom, hybrid, GMO, and other terms like open pollination when it comes to seeds? Today I want to demystify these terms so that you can choose the right seeds for you and your garden.

Here's a look at what exactly heirloom seeds are and five reasons they deserve a place in your garden. All heirloom seeds are non-GMO (meaning genetically modified organisms, or plants whose DNA has been artificially changed, often with genes from unrelated species that they could not naturally cross with). If you save the seed of a hybrid and grow it, you will get one of the parents, not the plant that produced the seed. Some people claim that heirloom plants are those that were introduced before 1951, while others claim that heirloom varieties are those that were introduced before the 1920s.

While you can't save the seeds and get the guaranteed traits as an heir plant, you can reproduce hybrids through cuttings. In general, you should consider that relics are seeds that can grow back and pass from one generation to the next. In addition, many heirloom seeds have existed for generations, making them part of the public domain. So if you want to grow that strain at a later time, you'll need to buy new seeds instead of growing the seeds you saved from that plant.

Most well-known seed companies have already signed up to this commitment, so look for it on the websites of the seed companies. Heirloom seeds come from open-pollinated plants that transmit similar characteristics and traits from the parent plant to the daughter plant. With the increasing demand for heirloom seeds, you'll find that it's not as difficult as before to obtain them. There are basically two main ways to describe your seeds, the genetics of your seeds and how they were grown.


Erika Shipley
Erika Shipley

Subtly charming beer nerd. Extreme internet specialist. Devoted travel junkie. Proud coffee maven. Friendly problem solver.