What Is the Difference Between Heirloom and Hybrid Seeds?

Determining which plants you will grow is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when starting a garden. The two main types of plants that you have to choose from are heirloom varieties and hybrids.

The biggest difference between heirloom and hybrid varieties of plants is that you will be able to save seeds from heirloom plants and regrow them year after year. While hybrids produce seeds, they may not grow true to type or produce fruit.

This article will cover the differences between these types of plants as well as situations where one may be better than the other. I’ll also go over what preppers and other gardeners need to know about genetically modified (GMO) crops. Knowing the differences between these will help you choose plants and seeds that will allow you to replant and harvest year after year and have the most nutritious produce possible. 

Heirloom Varieties

If you’re a prepper wanting to start a garden, the vast majority of the plants that you use should be heirloom varieties. They are time-tested and have been grown and handed down by farmers for decades or even centuries. You’ll most likely need to start these plants from seeds, however, you may be able to find heirloom plants at local farmers’ markets.

Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated and will grow true to type, meaning that seeds produced by them can be used to grow the same type of plant the following year. This is an important consideration for preppers wanting to start a survival garden. Since heirloom varieties’ seeds can be harvested and replanted, this will allow to you have a garden year after year.

Heirloom varieties have other advantages over hybrid or GMO plants. Many people consider their produce to taste better. Although that is subjective, heirloom varieties, many times, do tend to be more nutritious. 

Although they are the best option for having a sustainable long-term garden, heirlooms do have some downsides. They’re more prone to disease and can be less drought-tolerant. Because of this, their harvest is a little harder to predict than what you would get from hybrid or GMO plants.

Heirloom varieties also tend to develop a little slower than other types of plants. In addition, they may also grow larger than hybrids, so you’ll need plenty of space for them to grow.

Where to Find Heirloom Seeds

There are many places where you can find heirloom seeds. I’ve ordered all of mine online from a few different places, and all of them have been good. 

You may also be able to find heirloom seeds or plants locally at farmers’ markets or produce stands. If you can find them, try to get local varieties. The reasoning is that if other people have been growing certain plants in your area successfully, there is a good chance that you’ll be able to as well.

One popular place to pick up heirloom seeds online or via mail order is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Their website is www.rareseeds.com. I, along with other members of my family, have ordered from them with good results. They sell varieties individually, not as collections or seed vaults.

Survivalgardenseeds.com is another excellent place to purchase heirloom seeds. Unlike Baker Creek, Survival Garden Seeds offers large seed vaults with several varieties. They sent me a few of their collections to review on my Youtube Channel. Overall, I really liked their seed collections. They were well-packaged and contained useful varieties.

Their Farmer Seed Vault is their largest collection and contains 100 different varieties. These include vegetable plants, herbs, and flowers. Having all of these will allow you to have a well-rounded garden with plants for food, medicine, and attracting pollinators. Many of the flowers are edible or medicinal as well. You can find their Home Garden, Homesteader Collection, and Farmer Seed Vault by clicking on the embedded links.

Hybrid Plants

Hybrid garden plants

The next type of plant that preppers should know about is hybrid plants. These are seeds and plants that are the result of cross-pollination between two parent plants. This is done to create a plant with traits that are more desirable than those of the parent plants. 

Growing hybrid plants does have some benefits. The first is that many of them are designed to resist disease better than heirloom varieties. They also tend to grow and reach maturity faster, meaning that you will have more chances to harvest fruit. Hybrid plants can be more productive than heirloom varieties as well.

The big downside to growing hybrid plants is that seeds from them do not reliably produce plants that are true to their parent plant. They may germinate and grow but could have various problems, including not producing fruit. This disqualifies them from being good choices for a long-term survival garden. 

Although they shouldn’t be the backbone of your survival garden, growing a limited number of hybrid plants is perfectly acceptable. As long as you know what you’re getting, there’s no harm in growing a few hybrid plants, especially if you enjoy the fruit they produce. 

Many times, hybrid plants can be more forgiving to grow than heirloom varieties. This makes them a good choice for new gardeners since they’re harder to kill. Because of this, I recommend that new gardeners have mostly heirloom varieties but also include a few hybrids as well. It’s an easy way to give a newbie an advantage so they don’t kill all their plants, become discouraged, and never garden again.

Where to Find Hybrid Plants

Hybrid plants are the easiest kind of plants to find. Many plants and seeds that you see at large retailers are hybrids. During the spring, stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, and Tractor Supply offer several different varieties. You’ll have no problem finding different kinds of tomatoes, peppers, and many others.


The next type of plant you should know about is GMO, which stands for genetically-modified organisms. These types of plants have been created in a laboratory by a corporation. They do this by using genetic engineering to modify a plant’s DNA to give it desirable traits. 

The most common reason why GMOs are developed is to make the plant more resistant to pesticides or diseases. This is done to aid in large-scale agriculture to help ensure successful crops each year, however, genetically-modified crops are controversial for many reasons. 

One reason why some people have problems with GMOs is they fear that consuming them can result in health problems. An equally grave concern is that they give corporations too much power over the global food supply. Since the corporation developed the plant in a lab, this means that it is its intellectual property.

Some companies have been extremely aggressive when it comes to protecting their intellectual property rights. Some farmers have gotten into big legal trouble by saving seeds for the following season or doing other things that violate the agreement under which the crops were grown. There have even been instances where a company threatened individuals who had the plant growing on their property by accident.

Fortunately, most of us don’t need to worry about growing genetically modified plants in our gardens. They are meant for large-scale agriculture and are limited to specific types of crops. Corn, soybean, and canola are common examples, however, there are several more.

The seeds for these crops are only sold to farmers who engage in large-scale agriculture and are used under contract. This means that you won’t be able to simply walk into Walmart or your local nursery and purchase seeds for these plants.

However, you are very likely to encounter GMOs in the food that you eat daily, especially if it has been prepackaged or is from a restaurant. If this is something that you are concerned about, be sure to do a little digging before you purchase a particular grocery item or eat at certain restaurants.

What I Use in My Garden

The vast majority of the plants in my garden are heirloom varieties. This year, I used seeds from both Baker Creek and Survival Garden Seeds. I started them indoors during the Spring and moved them outside when it started to warm up. 

Growing mostly heirloom varieties will give me plenty of chances to save seeds for next year. This will ensure that I have a sustainable food source in the future and will also allow me to save money since I won’t have to buy seeds for those varieties again

Although I don’t have any hybrid plants in my garden this year, I may add some as the season progresses. If I find a variety that I like, I have no problem finding a spot for it with my other plants. I find that having heirloom varieties gives my garden stability and security, while hybrids can provide a little more enjoyment through the variety that they give.

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