Difference Between Heirloom And Hybrid Seeds

What is the difference between heirloom and hybrid seeds? First of all, hybrid and GMO are not the same thing, and a lot of people seem to get that confused. GMOs are Genetically modified organisms. Meaning they have been altered by man on the genetic level.

GMO products can contain genes from organisms that will never meet in the real world. For example, let’s say some scientist splices the genes of a fish into corn seed. There is no way that would ever happen in the real world.

Grape Tomatoes


Hybrids are are when plants who are closely related cross pollinate. This happens all the time in the real world.

  • Corn can cross pollinate.
  • Squash and zucchini can cross pollinate.
  • Different types of melons can cross pollinate.
  • Peppers can cross pollinate… etc.

When the seeds from a cross pollination are saved and planted, the resulting plant will have traits from both parents. However, when the seeds from the hybrid are saved and planted, the plant may not grow. Chances are seeds from a hybrid plant will be sterile, just like in the animal kingdom.

Are hybrids bad? No, of course not. Take a type of corn that is drought resistant and cross with with a type of corn that is pest resistant. the resulting hybrid should be able to grow where neither parent would be able to.


Heirloom is when saved seeds bear true to the parent. The issue is when a gardener plants several types of plants close together, and which are related.  If the gardener wishes to save the seeds, related plants must be separated by some distance.

If the gardener does not want to save seeds, then spacing is not an issue.

Saving Seeds

A lot of it boils down to if someone wants to save their seeds.  One problem is a lot of the plants for sale at big box marts are hybrids.  If someone goes down and buys some ready to plant  tomatoes, chances are they are going to be hybrids.

Seed packets and plants that are ready to plant should be marked if they are a hybrid.  Choose according to what you want to do.