Learn The Difference Between Non-Hybrid Seeds And Hybrid Seeds

Packets Of Hybrid And Non-Hybrid Vegetable Seeds
(Image credit: Laura Sterns (with permission))

Growing plants can be complicated enough, but technical terms can make growing plants even more confusing. The terms hybrid seeds and non-hybrid seeds are two of these terms. These terms are especially confusing due to a rather heated political debate occurring around these terms. Read on to learn more about what are hybrid seeds and non-hybrid seeds.

What are Hybrid Seeds?

Hybrid seeds are produced by companies through careful pollination of two specific varieties. Normally, this highly selective plant breeding is done to bring together two traits in each of the chosen varieties so that the resulting seed has both of the traits. So, for example, one tomato plant may be very drought tolerant and another tomato plant produces vigorously, the two plants might be cross pollinated to produce a drought tolerant tomato plant that produces a lot of tomatoes. Plants grown from hybrid seeds typically do not produce seeds that can be used to grow the same type of plants and can even produce seeds that will not grow at all. Though the term “hybrid seeds” is often used in relation to vegetables, any kind of plant that produces seeds can be bred into a hybrid variety.

What are Non-Hybrid Seeds?

Non-hybrid seeds are also called open pollinated seeds or heirloom seeds. Non-hybrid seeds come from plants that are naturally pollinated. Some of these varieties have been around for centuries. Non-hybrid seeds will produce plants whose seeds will produce more plants that look the same as the parent plant.

Should I Use Hybrid Seeds or Non-Hybrid Seeds?

Despite the debate on the Internet as to whether you should use hybrid seeds or not, this is actually a personal question for a gardener. Both hybrid seeds and non-hybrid seeds have their pros and cons. The positives for hybrid seeds are that they tend to perform better in your garden in terms of more fruits and vegetables produced, more plants surviving disease and pests, and more flowers. For a gardener, this can mean an increased return for all the time spent in caring for a garden. The negatives for hybrid seeds are that they tend to be more expensive to buy due to the specialized pollination process and the seeds you collect from them will not grow the same plant next year and, in some cases, have been bred so that no plant at all can grow from the seeds of a hybrid plant. The positives for non-hybrid seeds is that they come in a wonderful variety. For example, with tomato plants, there are literally thousands of non-hybrid varieties that you can try and each have their own look and flavor. Due to the cost and time involved in producing hybrid seeds, there are only a few dozen varieties, so your choices are limited. With non-hybrid seeds, you can also collect seeds from the plant and use them again next year to grow the same variety of plant. The negatives for non-hybrid seeds is that they are not as well rounded as hybrid seeds. Many non-hybrid seeds are much more susceptible to disease and pests than their hybrid counterparts. They also tend not to produce nearly as much as hybrid seeds do. Which is right for you depends on what you would like out of your garden. Consider carefully which type of seed is best for you.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.