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Seed Buying 101

Seed Buying 101

Our spring gardens are right around the corner, which means it’s time to look at which seeds you need to buy! Confused about the difference between an heirloom variety and an open-pollinated variety? Or maybe what a hybrid is? Here is a list of common terms you may encounter in your seed buying journey.


The word cultivar comes from the term “cultivated variety” and is often presented as the variety name in catalogs.


Open-pollinated varieties result from pollination by insects, wind, self-pollination, or other natural forms of pollination.

Hybrid (F1)

An F1 (first generation) hybrid occurs when a breeder selects two plants that produce identical offspring when self-pollinated and cross-pollinates them to produce a seed that combines desirable characteristics or “traits” from both parents. Due to production methods, hybrid seed is often more expensive than non-hybrid seed.


Heirlooms can be generally defined as open-pollinated varieties that have resulted from natural selection rather than a controlled hybridization process.

Treated/Untreated Seeds

Seeds labeled as being “treated” are generally coated with a fungicide, insecticide, or herbicide to protect the germinating seed from pathogens when planted. Primarily, treated seed is available for commercial crops. Check your seed packaging for specifics about any applied treatment.

More information about these and other terms can be found here. The information in this post has been pulled from the All-America Selections Seed Buying 101.