10 Disadvantages of Heirloom Seeds | Things You Must Know

Heirloom seeds are unique and have proven their worth over time. These historic, open pollinated seed varieties are a great option if you want something different in your home vegetable garden.

Before you go out and buy heirloom seeds it is important to know some of their disadvantages. This includes pest resistance, space, cost and consistency. This article will explore 10 disadvantages to be aware of before choosing your seeds.

Key Takeaways

  • Heirloom seeds may be more susceptible to pests and diseases than hybrid seeds.
  • Heirloom seeds may take longer to grow and produce fruit.
  • Heirloom seeds can be labor-intensive and may require more maintenance than hybrid seeds.

What Are Heirloom Seeds?

Heirloom seeds are not just “old” seeds; they are seeds that are handed down from family members or even the community, and they are considered first-class seeds that produce great-looking and great-tasting vegetables of all kinds.

As far as their age is concerned, all “experts” have a different opinion. Some people claim they’re seeds at least 100 years old; others say 50 years; and still others claim the seeds are from a specific timeframe, such as 1945-1950.

While they are old that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth buying. Still, there are some distinct disadvantages to buying heirloom seeds, and they include the following:

1. They May not be as Resistant to Diseases and Pests

Heirloom seeds tend to be less resistant to these things simply because they haven’t been through some of the modern processes that make them more resistant to them.

Even hybrid seeds can be crossed with more resilient varieties to make them less attractive to pests, but this is not the case with heirloom seeds.

2. They can be Rare

This is one of the biggest disadvantages to trying to buy heirloom seeds. Because they are passed down from generation to generation, you can’t always find them.

Look out for seed collectives in your local area or online sellers who can post them out to you. They usually sell seeds in small quantities so you can grow them at home.

Heirloom seed companies often have rare seeds that are hard to find in stores.

3. They Usually Require a Lot of Space

If you have limited space in your garden, you might not be able to grow veggies from heirloom seeds. This is because a lot of plants used today are bred to be compact, while heirloom seeds are not.

Some also require you to have trellises or need a lot of pruning, and this is not something everyone wants to do when they buy vegetable seeds. If you have a small garden, look for something besides heirloom seeds.

4. They Are Often Expensive

Because heirloom seeds are rare and sometimes difficult to find, they are often very expensive as well. If you’re on a budget, this is something you have to take into consideration before rushing out and buying heirloom seeds.

If you end up buying them online, make sure you compare prices of different companies so you can get the best deal in the end.

5. They Are Often Sold in Small Quantities

Even if you do find the heirloom seeds you’ve been looking for, you might not be able to find as many of them as you need. Sometimes heirloom seeds are in scarce quantity, so if you’re hoping to buy tons of a certain vegetable to complement your garden, you might not be able to do this when you’re buying heirloom seeds.

You may in fact be very limited when it comes to the quantities of heirloom seeds you were hoping to purchase.

Here are the number of seeds that I got in my California Poppy heirloom seed packet.

6. Their Overall Quality Is Different

Because heirloom seeds are unique and aren’t modified in any way, the vegetables aren’t always as attractive as their counterparts.

They might turn out bumpy, scarred, cracked, or even smaller than your other vegetables. This may or may not affect the taste and texture of the veggies, but be prepared for the fact that your heirloom vegetables may not look the same as the other vegetables in your garden.

7. They May Produce Fewer Veggies

With regular veggies, the package will give you an estimate of how many pieces the seeds will produce, and you can rely on it being that number. Not so with heirloom vegetables.

With heirloom seeds, it’s very common for you to get a different number of veggies each time you grow them, and the number is almost always lower than the number you’d get with any other types of seeds. This makes heirloom vegetables a little less reliable than standard seeds.

8. They Can Be Inconsistent

With heirloom vegetables, you may get a large crop one year and a miniscule one the next. You never really know how many vegetables you’ll get from these seeds, and you won’t be able to predict how big your crop will be from one year to the next.

This can be frustrating for a lot of growers, especially those who are counting on a certain size crop each year.

9. They Don’t Ripen All at Once

Due to open pollination, hybrid vegetables don’t ripen all at once. With regular seeds, the veggies ripen at the same time and therefore you can harvest them all at once.

Some people may consider this an inconvenience because let’s face it, it’s simply easier to pick all of the vegetables at the same time instead of picking them at different times over a long period of time.

10. They Are Not Durable When Being Shipped

Standard vegetables are now bred to last throughout the shipping process and still be considered “good” once they get to their destination.

If you’re growing the vegetables for your own use, this isn’t a problem, but if you’re growing them in order to sell them to customers, this might be a challenge you’ll have to learn to deal with so that your customers are satisfied.

Check out this simple guide on how to successfully plant seeds.


There are numerous advantages to choosing heirloom seeds, but there are disadvantages as well. You’ll have to learn both the pros and cons in order to decide if this type of vegetable is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are heirloom seeds more difficult to grow than regular seeds?

Heirloom seeds can be more challenging to grow than regular seeds because they are often more susceptible to pests and diseases. Additionally, heirloom plants may have different growth habits and require specific growing conditions. However, with proper care and attention, heirloom seeds can produce healthy and productive plants.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using organic seeds?

Organic seeds are typically grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, making them a healthier and more environmentally friendly option. However, organic seeds can be more expensive and harder to find than regular seeds. Additionally, organic seeds may not produce as much fruit or yield as regular seeds.

What are some challenges associated with growing heirloom plants?

Some challenges associated with growing heirloom plants include their susceptibility to pests and diseases, their specific growing requirements, and the potential for cross-pollination with other plant varieties. Additionally, heirloom plants may not produce as much fruit or yield as regular plants.

How do heirloom seeds compare to regular seeds in terms of yield?

Heirloom seeds may not produce as much fruit or yield as regular seeds. This is because heirloom plants have often been bred for flavor and other desirable traits rather than high yields. However, with proper care and attention, heirloom plants can still produce healthy and productive yields.

What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of using heirloom seeds?

The potential benefits of using heirloom seeds include their unique flavors, their historical significance, and their ability to adapt to local growing conditions. However, the potential drawbacks include their susceptibility to pests and diseases, their specific growing requirements, and their lower yields compared to regular seeds.