The 10 Best Heirloom Seeds of 2023

Sweet, sun-drenched Organic Artisan Bumble Bee Blend Cherry Tomatoes burst with flavor and color.

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If you’re building a vegetable, herb, or flower garden from the seeds up, it will surely benefit your green thumb (and ensure the health of your plants) to identify the types of seeds that will thrive most in your garden beds. The best heirloom seeds have been passed down from generation to generation and help keep uncommon plant varieties thriving for years to come.

But why preserve seeds for hundreds of years for reasons other than nostalgia? Portia Cozzolino, owner and grower for Mike's Hothouse, writes this about heirloom seed varieties: “If the seed was a tomato, for instance, the grower may have loved its taste, or how hardy it was in their garden. The tomato [plant] may have produced many tomatoes with little disease. The seed from this tomato, when saved and planted the next year, produced the same tomato as the year before.” This is less likely to happen with hybrid seeds, which Cozzolino notes don’t have the same effect: “If you save the [hybrid] seeds to grow another year, you will not get the same tomato.” Although hybrid plants combine different characteristics from the plants they cross-pollinate from, they’re less reliable than heirloom seeds, which are more likely to produce the same type of plant as the year before.

Best Heirloom Seeds of 2023

Better Homes & Gardens / Marcus Millan

Of course, there are many seeds that come in heirloom varieties, can be purchased online, and don’t have to be passed down directly to you. There are plenty of delicious options, but if you’re a beginner, Cozzolino recommends beans as one of the easiest plants to grow.

Below, we round up the best heirloom seeds to consider planting in your own garden–and use again and again for years to come.

Best Organic

Botanical Interests Arugula/Rocket

Botanical Interests Arugula/Rocket Seed Collection


Why You Should Get It: Arugula grows quickly, and an organic option is best for produce that you generally eat raw, like this leafy green.

Keep in Mind: This particular batch seems to grow less peppery than other arugula types, but is perfect for those looking for a slightly milder taste.

The USDA defines organic as plants that have been “certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest,” where “prohibited substances” is defined as things like pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. This variety of seeds from Botanical Interests are all heirloom and organic, and include things like wheatgrass, Swiss chard, cabbage, kale, and collard greens–but the best heirloom seeds in this 10-pack to spotlight are the arugula. A durable and reliable plant, the peppery flavor makes for great salads and can grow in both hot weather and temperatures that have just begun to drop.

According to the manufacturer, you can sow them four to six weeks before your average first frost, and they’ll grow to maturity in around a month. Still, they’re resilient, easy-to-grow plants that thrive in partial shade and can even survive once frost hits post-sowing. We chose arugula as the best organic option because it is eaten raw and you won’t have to worry about pesticides with this heirloom variety.

Price at time of publish: $24 for a 10-Pack

Product Details: Packet Size: 402 seeds | Days to Maturity: 20-45 | Hardiness Zone: 2-11 | Light Preference: Partial Shade | Seed Life: Annual

Best Vegetable

Botanical Interests Organic Artisan Bumble Bee Blend Cherry Tomato Seeds

Botanical Interests Organic Artisan Bumble Bee Blend Cherry Tomato Seeds


Why You Should Get It: These frost-sensitive Bumble Bee tomatoes grow in varied colors and are sweet pops of color to add to your salad.

Keep in Mind: Tomatoes need very little maintenance but do need a lot of sunlight to thrive.

Yes, tomatoes are technically classified as a fruit, but because they function as a vegetable for most people, and no list about the best heirloom seeds would be close to complete without its most famous iteration, we had to include an heirloom tomato option.

This Bumble Bee Cherry tomato blend is our top pick for a few reasons: The first is that this particular variety embodies the traits of an heirloom plant that make the seeds worth passing down–they produce big yields; they’re exceptionally sweet; and they come in three beautiful shades of striped cherry tomatoes. The second reason is that they’re also crack- and split-resistant, which anyone who grows tomatoes knows is one of its most frustrating attributes.

These take 70 days to mature and thrive best in intense sunlight where they can ripen. They grow best in the summer but can still produce in the early fall months. Finally, it’s useful that these are small, so you’re likely to get an abundance of tomatoes quickly as more will grow in their place.

Price at time of publish: $4

Product Details: Packet Size: 15 seeds | Days to Maturity: 70 | Hardiness Zone: 5-8 thrive best, but can grow in 5-11 | Light Preference: Sun | Seed Life: Annual

Best Herb

The Old Farmer's Almanac Heirloom Organic Chive Seeds

The Old Farmer's Almanac Heirloom Organic Chive Seeds


Why You Should Get It: Chives are a versatile, high-germination plant that work as well on a windowsill as they do in an outdoor garden.

Keep in Mind: Flowering chives are plants that produce a high-yield when watered regularly or in moist soil, so they can get unruly when left alone.

Chives are companion plants, which means they help repel pests like flies, worms, and aphids when kept in a well-moistened garden. They are also high-yielding and incredibly versatile in cooking thanks to their mild but garlic-forward flavor. They’re also perennial plants, so if you plant the seeds around four to six weeks before your last frost, they’ll grow and prosper, coming back again and again when the weather warms up.

The soil is the most important part of maintaining these, as they need moistened soil to thrive and do very well with rain or consistent watering. They work in both full sun and partial shade, so they are fairly easy to put anywhere in your backyard. They’ll also work on a windowsill, so you can replant some chives in a pot and give them to friends or family in the true heirloom seed tradition.

Price at time of publish: $6

Product Details: Packet Size: 250 seeds | Days to Maturity: 80 | Hardiness Zone: 3-10 | Light Preference: Full Sun or Partial Shade | Seed Life: Perennial

Best Flower

Isla’s Garden Seeds Mammoth Grey Stripe Sunflower Seeds

Isla’s Garden Seeds Mammoth Grey Stripe Sunflower Seeds


Why You Should Get It: This beautiful variety of sunflower is bright, sunny, and has been growing since the 1800s.

Keep in Mind: These really are mammoth flowers, growing up to 12 feet in height, so you’ll need a yard with a lot of space.

These beautiful and bright sunflowers began growing in the 1800s, so if you’re truly interested in the historical aspect of the best heirloom seeds, these stunners are a radiant addition to your garden. They don't need a ton of moisture in their roots, but they also have incredibly long roots so they need to be spaced around 18 to 24 inches apart. Of course, these heirloom sunflowers are true to their namesake and do well in direct sunlight, where the flowers themselves will grow up to 15 inches in width. They’re safe to plant after there is no more danger of frost, so start when you know there won’t be a winter storm looming. Cover them with netting or landscaping cloth before they germinate, as birds like to eat their (delicious) seeds.

Price at time of publish: $6

Product Details: Packet Size: 50 seeds | Days to Maturity: 80-100 | Hardiness Zone: 1-10 | Light Preference: Full Sun | Seed Life: Annual

Best Seeds in Bulk

Botanical Interests Bloomsdale Spinach Seeds

Botanical Interests Bloomsdale Spinach Seeds


Why You Should Get It: If there’s an heirloom vegetable to grow in bulk, choose one that is as versatile as this Bloomsdale spinach.

Keep in Mind: These can be brought inside and grown in containers as well.

The best heirloom seeds to buy in bulk are ones that can grow for longer periods of time, produce high-yield results, and can be used in all sorts of ways. These spinach seeds check off all of those boxes: the 500+ seeds will result in up to 98 feet of nutrient-rich greens (Spinach is high in vitamins A, C, and iron.) to be used in a variety of dishes year-round. This particular heirloom seed was created in 1930. You can sow it around four to six weeks before the first frost. It’s also a cool season annual, meaning it does well in lower temps and should produce healthy leaves from around April to October. This heirloom variety spinach flourishes when it’s cold enough that pests and other bugs won’t bother it or eat the leaves. You can even cover it or bring it inside to grow and thrive during the coldest months of the year. Plant it outdoors in early spring or fall.

Price at time of publish: $6

Product Details: Packet Size: 590 seeds | Days to Maturity: 28-45 | Hardiness Zone: 5-10 | Light Preference: Full Sun | Seed Life: Cool-Season Annual 

Best for Beginners

Isla’s Garden Seeds Blue Lake Bush Green Bean Seeds

Isla’s Garden Seeds Blue Lake Bush Green Bean Seeds


Why You Should Get It: An easy-to-grow plant that will produce a lot of food, making it an excellent project to do with children or those newer to gardening.

Keep in Mind: Frequent (daily when possible) harvesting produces the best results.

As Cozzolino noted, beans, radishes, and carrots are some of the easiest and best heirloom seeds to grow–so if you’re new to gardening or have unsuccessfully tried in the past, start with one of those varieties. These Blue Lake Bush Green Beans from Isla’s Garden will bloom in summer to fall, making them a great project to do with children. They do well when harvested daily, but they’re also great candidates for pickling or canning, so they shouldn’t have to go to waste.

Another benefit of these Blue Lake Bush varieties is that they’re stringless (a notorious nuisance when it comes to a green bean), which is why they’ve lasted the test of time and become some of the best heirloom seed options available. They can also grow in containers and can be planted around every two weeks during their growth season. Another benefit: They don’t need to be planted very deeply, and only need to be spread around 3 to 6 inches, so they’ll work well in smaller gardens.

Price at time of publish: $7

Product Details: Packet Size: 50 seeds | Days to Maturity: 60 | Hardiness Zone: 3-12 | Light Preference: Full or Partial Sun | Seed Life: Annual

Best for Warm Climates

Sow Right Seeds Lavender Seeds

Sow Right Seeds Lavender Seeds


Why You Should Get It: A beautiful and beautifully-scented plant, it’s perfect for climates that are dry and hot.

Keep in Mind: A notoriously tricky plant to grow and reach maturity, it can handle dry soil and extreme heat but does poorly in humidity.

Lavender is one of the best heirloom seed options for very dry, very arid areas–a type of climate where it is hard to find suitable plant options to grow and thrive. They take up to 200 days to reach full maturity and do very poorly in humidity, but survive and grow in desert-like conditions. To help them germinate, the brand recommends sprinkling the seeds on a wet paper towel, placing them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a month, and sowing the seeds by barely covering them with soil. Lavender is a beautiful herb you can use dried to scent candles or essential oils and is known for its calming, fragrant aroma.

Price at time of publish: $5

Product Details: Packet Size: 450 seeds | Days to Maturity: 90-200 | Hardiness Zone: 4-8 | Light Preference: Full Sun | Seed Life: Perennial

Best for Cool Climates

Sow Right Seeds Ball’s Orange Calendula Seeds

Sow Right Seeds Ball’s Orange Calendula Seeds


Why You Should Get It: A bright and beautiful annual plant that can thrive in autumn temps, this flower is also edible.

Keep in Mind: These are hearty flowers that will survive a light frost, but they’re not going to live through Northeast winters.

Calendula can bloom in the late summer and in the fall, and they’re one of the rare plants that actually thrive in cooler temperatures–plus, they’re able to survive light frost, unlike most other plants. They tend to stop blooming in temperatures above 85ºF and can survive weather down to 25ºF.

There are other benefits to planting Calendula (also known as pot marigolds). For one, they attract bees and butterflies, so they’re great to encourage open pollination and are wonderful to plant in vegetable gardens for that same reason. They’re gorgeous and rich in color, and this variety is a bright and cheery orange. Plus, they can be used for many different purposes: making calendula oil (which is known for its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties), adding to lotions, or using the flowers in tea or as a garnish on salads, frittatas, focaccia, and more.

These beauties even thrive in average to poor soil, so long as they get some sunlight. These are the best heirloom seeds to buy if you’re looking to experience some bright flowers in fall weather.

Price at time of publish: $6

Product Details: Packet Size: 100 seeds | Days to Maturity: 50-60 | Hardiness Zone: 2-11 | Light Preference: Full Sun | Seed Life: Annual

Best for Partial Shade

The Old Farmer's Almanac Heirloom Detroit Dark Red Beet Seeds

The Old Farmer's Almanac Heirloom Detroit Dark Red Beet Seeds


Why You Should Get It: Beets can thrive in cooler weather and are a versatile crop that produce a sweet globe and a rich, earthy top.

Keep in Mind: Because they can thrive in both partial shade and in full sun, you might notice the beets that grow in shade will be a little bit smaller, but both will taste equally delicious.

Detroit Dark Red Beets were introduced in 1892 and are known for their rich color. The tops of the beets are also excellent when sautéed or steamed and function similarly to Swiss chard. They do best in rich soil with low acidity and sufficient drainage, which can mean they’re a bit more high-maintenance than other vegetables, but the trade-off is that beets flourish in both partial shade and full sun. When in full sun, this variety might be a little smaller than if it was grown in sunlight, but beets are hearty plants that do fine without a ton of light and can even be purposely plucked before they’re fully grown to use as baby beets. You can sow them once the frost has passed in spring or early fall, and they grow just fine when set about 1 to 2 inches apart.

Price at time of publish: $7

Product Details: Packet Size: 400 seeds | Days to Maturity: 45-55 | Hardiness Zone: 3-10 | Light Preference: Full Sun or Partial Shade | Seed Life: Annual

Best for Full Sun

Seed Needs Snapdragon Seeds Tetra Blend

Seed Needs Snapdragon Seeds Tetra Blend


Why You Should Get It: These are bright and beautiful flowers that grow well in full sunlight and look great in vases as cut flowers, too.

Keep in Mind: This mixed pack will produce a variety of different colored snapdragons.

Snapdragons are bright and beautiful flowers that grow as pink, purple, yellow, white, and red blooms. They stand up to 24 inches high and are known to last up to 10 days in a vase, so they’re great candidates for bouquets in your home, too. They thrive in full sun and warmer climates and in the right circumstances, they will grow quickly and bloom heavily.

They won’t last past the winter frost, but will be a colorful addition to your garden when they’re alive. If you do indeed live in a warmer climate, they can sometimes even thrive as perennials, although in most hardiness zones they do best as annuals, and the seeds can be saved for the next planting season. Snapdragons are unique because they can withstand cooler temperatures as long as they get sunlight, so if you live in a climate that gets chillier at night, these are some of the best heirloom seeds you can buy.

Price at time of publish: $6

Product Details: Packet Size: 1000 seeds | Days to Maturity: 80-100 | Hardiness Zone: 7-11 | Light Preference: Full Sun | Seed Life: Annual

The Bottom Line

Buying the best heirloom seeds for your garden is hugely dependent on climate, hardiness zone, and  other environmental factors, but heirloom seeds are a great way to keep unique and beautiful herbs, vegetables, and flowers thriving for generations without having to resort to less reliable hybrid plants. We recommend starting with a vegetable like spinach, arugula, tomatoes, or the famously easy-to-grow green bean.

What to Know About Heirloom Seeds Before Shopping

There are the essential and basic considerations to make when determining what to plant, such as the climate in your area, the amount of sunlight available, the amount of experience you have as a gardener, and how much precipitation you’ll receive in a given season. The most important aspect of shopping for the right heirloom seeds is to understand all of the vital specs of your garden. Here are some necessary factors to consider:

Hardiness Zone

The USDA has designated the entirety of the United States into plant hardiness zones from 1-13. Finding out yours will give you a wealth of information on what types of plants will do best in your area, as the purpose of the zone is to determine exactly what type of plants can survive year after year. It considers another important factor–the climate–as it utilizes data like the high temperatures, the low temperatures, and the amount of rainfall in a given area. 

Garden Size, Position, and Soil Make-Up

The size of your garden will help you determine what you’re able to plant–some seeds only need a few inches apart to thrive, while some plants (like sunflowers, for instance) will need more than a foot apart to grow. Whether your garden is in full sun or partial shade is another consideration to make. Finally, soil composition and type is important. A simple way of seeing the type of soil you have is to pick it up and rub it between your fingers. Heirloom seed packets will label what type of soil works best for its seeds to germinate and mature, so if it feels very wet, very damp, very dry, or thick and clay-like between your fingers, this will help you note what types of seeds to plant. You’ll also want to see if water tends to pool in your garden or if it has sufficient drainage.

Days to Germination and Maturity

Some plants (like lavender) could take 200 days to fully mature. Some plants germinate within days and some need more tending. Looking at these characteristics will help you as you’re choosing which season to plant. For example: If you’re looking to germinate an heirloom plant that can’t be exposed to frost and it’s a few weeks before the temperature drops, you’re better off waiting until next season. Also, easy-maintenance plants, like green beans, mature in 60 days, so you can look forward to reaping your rewards in a shorter time span.


If you choose an heirloom seed that works well in moist soil but your soil runs a bit on the drier side, it doesn’t mean your selected seeds won’t grow, it just means you’ll need to water it more often. Also consider whether or not you can accommodate each seed variety’s specific needs and attributes. For example, green beans should be picked very soon after maturity or they lose flavor, and beets planted in partial shade will still grow well but won’t be as large as if they were grown in full sun. All of these are considerations you should make when choosing seeds, because you’ll need to evaluate how much time you have, how often you’re willing to tend to a garden, and what you’d like your end product to look like.

Your Questions, Answered

What is an heirloom seed?

An heirloom seed is a seed that has been passed down for more than 50 years in an effort to preserve them for generations to come. (Although some purists argue it has to have existed pre-World War II, when people began saving seeds during a time when food was rationed and in low supply.) The seeds taste as  they did decades or even hundreds of years ago when they were first grown, so you’re eating a bit of history as well.

The best heirloom seeds also have some interesting characteristics that make them worthy of preservation, such as flavor or unusual spots or beautiful coloring, and using these seeds ensures you’ll continue producing those characteristics year after year. All heirloom seeds happen to be open-pollinated seeds and non-GMO by design. They can also be saved and reused, which pleases many gardeners who like to consider the environment.

Where can I buy heirloom seeds?

Heirloom seeds are available on Amazon and other retailers that sell plant seeds, but you should be looking for packages that note they’re heirloom and were prepared for the upcoming sowing season (basically, check the expiration date). We typically go for brands that also have their own website in which to purchase seeds so we can vet quality and confirm they are indeed heirloom.

As for what type of seed to cultivate, Cozzolino recommends radishes, carrots and beans as they are the easiest to grow. “Pepper seeds are somewhat hard to germinate,” says Cozzolino. “They take their sweet time and it might dissuade home gardeners.” 

Are heirloom seeds worth it?

Yes, we believe they are. For one, they’re open-pollinated non-GMO, which means they’re tried and true varieties that have stood the test of time and were grown without much disturbance or modification. For comparison, hybrid seeds are the result of cross-pollinating different plant varieties to help ward off diseases, taste better, or yield more flowers. Seeds from open-pollinated plants have been pollinated naturally–whether it’s from the wind, bats, bees, or other creatures–and contribute nutrients to the area around them. Additionally, the characteristics that have allowed heirloom seeds to thrive and be passed down from generation to generation ensure their high quality and unique genetic makeup. Finally, we like that using heirloom seeds is a simple way to preserve history and be conscious about what we’re growing and where it comes from.

Who We Are

Alida Nugent is a commerce writer with years of experience recommending products in the home, lifestyle, and gardening verticals. She has experience planting and gardening in the Northeast United States and conducted hours of research for this article, in addition to interviewing Portia Cozzolino, owner and grower for Mike's Hothouse. 

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