Open Pollinated vs. Hybrid Seeds: Differences Explained

Choosing what type of seeds to plant in your garden is extremely important, especially with so many options available. However, when selecting seeds, you will likely encounter open pollinated and hybrid varieties. So what exactly is the difference between the two? 

Open pollinated seeds produce the same plant type when cross-pollinated with plants of the same variety. In contrast, hybrid seeds are created by cross-pollinating two varieties of the same plant. The resulting hybrid plant will generally have characteristics of both the mother and father plants. 

In the rest of this article, I will discuss the differences between open pollinated and hybrid seeds. Then, I will go over some tips for selecting a seed type, plus answer a few common questions related to the two. So if you want to learn more about open pollinated and hybrid seeds, read on. 

Differences Between Open Pollinated Seeds and Hybrid Seeds

Both open pollinated and hybrid seeds serve an essential purpose when it comes to agriculture. Each of these seeds has unique characteristics that make them suitable for different gardening circumstances. 

So what exactly makes a seed open pollinated or hybrid? The table below summarizes the key differences between the two types of seeds.

CharacteristicOpen pollinated seedsHybrid seeds
PollinationOccurs naturally without any undue interferenceCross-pollination between two plant varieties is intentionally facilitated
Life spanCan be passed down from generation to generationCannot reliably produce the same yield after one generation
ReplantingCan be replantedCan only be planted once
Flavor of fruitIntenseWeak
CostRelatively inexpensiveCan cost up to five times more to purchase
Rate of growthSlowRapid
Type of farmingHousehold gardening and small-scale farmingLarge-scale commercial farming
Seed varietyLimitedWide
Appearance of fruitFruit varies in shape, color and sizeFruit appears uniform
Disease resistanceBuilds up gradually over many growing seasonsSeeds are bred to be highly disease resistant
Growth patternUnrulyOrderly

Let’s examine these differences in more detail.


Open pollinated seeds are easy to pollinate without creating hybrid plants. However, bees and other pollinators will occasionally cross plants, so you’ll want to isolate the plants if you’re worried about crossing. You can do this by placing them in a greenhouse or planting them further away from various crops. 

Open pollinated seeds are known for their ability to reproduce the same type of fruit when pollinated with other plants of the same variety. For example, if a bee or other pollinator pollinates the plant using pollen from nearby plants of the same variety, the fruit produced will be the same.

On the other hand, hybrid seeds have been specially bred to perform a certain way. Desirable traits from one plant are combined with desirable traits from another through selective pollination. For example, many hybrid plants are bred to resist disease and produce fast crops in large quantities. The disease resistance is created by combining parent plants with desirable traits. 

So if the mother plant is resistant to disease and is crossed with a fast-producing father plant, the resulting seed should be a hybrid combination of the two. Of course, crossing the two plants and creating the exact plant you want is far more complicated than it sounds, but you get the general idea. 

Production of hybrid seeds can sometimes yield unpredictable results. For example, some hybrid seeds can produce strange colorations while others could result in desirable genetic variations. The latter are often referred to as Hybrid F1 seeds. 

Hybrid F1 Seeds

A hybrid F1 seed occurs by breeding two different plant varieties for a desirable trait. Once those traits have been accomplished, the seed of the new plant is considered an F1 hybrid. These seeds tend to grow faster and with fewer issues as the plants are resilient. 

Plants that grow from F1 seeds will grow far more uniformly than open pollinated seeds. We’ll discuss this in more detail later in the article.

Life Span

Open pollinated seeds keep well, so over time, you can use them to create your own store of seeds. In addition, your stored seeds will be genetically predispositioned to your garden’s growing conditions. As a result, you will be collecting seeds that can do exceptionally well in your garden. 

Storing your seeds gives you the opportunity to be more self-sufficient and helps you understand what works for your garden. However, open pollinated seeds can still go bad over time, so it’s important to know how to test old seeds. I’ve written an extensive guide on testing old seeds for germination. Don’t miss it: How to Test Old Seeds for Germination

In comparison, seeds from hybrid plants are difficult to replant. This means that you must use a new batch of seeds each growing season. You can’t grow new plants from the seeds of your hybrid plants – otherwise, you risk ending up with plants that produce poorly, have strange variations, or exhibit unusual growth patterns. This means that you need to purchase and sow new seeds each growing season.


Because open pollinated seeds keep better, they are often handed down through generations. That’s why these types of seeds are often referred to as heirloom seeds. They typically have an old heritage and have been cultivated for many years.

Note that any seed cultivated for over 50 years can qualify as an heirloom seed. All heirloom seeds are open pollinated, but not all open pollinated seeds are heirlooms. It’s also worth noting that open pollinated seeds produce similar fruit or plants each year when pollinated.

In contrast, F1 plant seeds can have tremendous benefits, but the seeds those plants produce may not.

The seeds from an F1 plant are unpredictable and often less effective than their parent plant. Instead of being a replica of the plant they come from, these seeds often only exhibit some of the parent plant’s characteristics. They are more diluted in desirable traits and produce poorer results than their parent plant.

Flavor of Fruit

A major defining attribute of self-pollinated seeds is in the fruit that they produce. The flavor of their fruit is the main focus for collectors of open pollinated seeds who breed these types of plants. Because of the attention given to the fruit, it’s hard to beat the incredible flavor of most self-pollinated seed plants. 

When it comes to hybrid seeds, their fruit packs less of a punch and pales in comparison to heirloom seeds. For example, if you’ve ever had a fantastic tomato in your life, chances are it was an heirloom tomato. A flavorless tomato, however, likely came from a hybrid seed.


Open pollinated seed varieties are more cost-effective in two ways. One, you can quickly grow your own seed supply; and two, the seeds are more reasonably priced. 

In comparison, you can expect to pay up to five times more for hybrid seeds than standard seeds. This high price is due to the effort that is put in to create seeds with desirable traits

Remember that seeds from an F1 hybrid plant do not keep well. So you will have to purchase new – and expensive – seeds each season. The cost of growing hybrid plants can really add up if you aren’t making a profit from the crops you grow.

Rate of Growth

One of the main drawbacks of open pollinated seeds is their slower rate of growth and fruiting. While this slow growth might be fine for small gardens, it doesn’t work well for large commercial farms. Along with slower growth, these plants also tend to produce less fruit, though the fruit produced is of higher quality. 

Hybrid seeds are known for their shorter growing seasons, which means the plants produce fruit far more quickly than standard seeds. There are hybrid seeds of most fruit and vegetable varieties.

Disease Resistance

Hybrid seeds have a resistance to common plant diseases that’s superior to that of open pollinated seed types. Additionally, hybrid seeds require fewer pesticides to keep them safe and healthy for longer. 

This disease-resistance trait is bred into hybrid seeds to ensure their good health and continued fruit production. However, not all hybrid seeds are bred with this attribute, so you should always do your research when buying a hybrid seed.

Type of Farming

Open pollinated seeds are common in household gardens but aren’t ideal for the mass production of uniform fruit. Hybrid seeds were first introduced to the United States in the 1920s. Since then, these seeds have taken the farming world by storm. 

The ability to selectively breed desirable attributes while removing undesirable characteristics has been deemed essential, especially for large-scale and retail suppliers. Because hybrid seeds grow faster, are more disease-resistant, and can produce a larger yield, they are strongly favored for commercial farming.

The fact that hybrid seeds produce uniform fruit is also a reason why they are preferred for large-scale farming. We’ll discuss this in more detail later in the article.

Seed Variety

Open pollinated seeds tend to have less variety in their appearance, unlike hybrid plants, which come in several colors, shapes, and sizes. 

When it comes to open pollinated seeds, you will find fewer unique variations in color and plant types. In comparison, hybrid plants are usually bred to have select traits. But, again, the flavor of heirloom plants is one of their best features.  

Generally, the best open pollinated seeds are tomatoes and legumes such as beans and peas.

However, there are many varieties of open pollinated seeds – not just legumes and tomatoes. Any plant seed can be an open pollinated seed, so when you buy seeds, check the package as they are usually labeled.

On the other hand, because of the ability to breed out undesirable traits and keep preferable ones, hybrid plants come in wide varieties. For example, plants that have unique colorations are likely hybrid. Also, plant varieties that are more resistant to extreme weather – even when other types of this plant aren’t – are likely hybrid.

Appearance of Fruit

The fruit of open pollinated seeds is often unique in appearance: it’s not as uniform and comes in all shapes and sizes. This is why you might have noticed that produce at the grocery store appears perfect and similar in shape, while your garden produce comes out in odd shapes and vastly different sizes.

In comparison, hybrid seeds produce uniform fruit. This uniformity is one of the reasons the produce at your local grocery store all look so similar in shape and size. The uniformity trait is more desirable to growers and is bred into the plant to make the fruit look more attractive to the buyer.

Growth Pattern

Open pollinated seeds tend to grow in a more unruly fashion than their hybrid counterparts. Plants of hybrid seeds usually grow in a neat and orderly manner – if that’s a trait that has been replicated in them. Because of this, farmers can grow a larger number of plants on their land if they use hybrid seeds. In addition, plants of hybrid seeds often have a similar appearance.

Tips for Selecting a Seed Type 

Choosing the type of seed most beneficial to your gardening setup can be tricky. However, there are a few key things you should consider before buying seeds that can make it easier for you to make a decision. 

Here are some essential questions you should ask yourself before purchasing hybrid or open pollinated seeds:

  • What are my garden’s needs?
  • How much do I need my seeds to produce?
  • Do I wish to collect seeds from my plants?
  • What seeds are in my budget?

Open pollinated seeds are a good option if you are growing a garden purely for the flavor of homegrown fruits and vegetables. These seeds come in heirloom varieties which are known for their intense flavors. Open pollinated seeds are also cheaper and can be saved to grow later. 

On the other hand, hybrid seeds are great if you live somewhere with a challenging climate. Many hybrid seeds have been bred to withstand extreme cold or warm weather. These plants are also known for rapid growth – though they are expensive, and new seeds need to be bought and sown each season. 

Here are some tips for choosing the right seeds for your garden:

  • Find a variety that fits your garden’s temperature needs.
  • Buy seeds that fit your budget. 
  • Choose plants that work for your taste pallet. 
  • Select a seed that will produce the amount of fruit you need. 
  • Pick plants that bring you joy. 

Your seed type is entirely up to your garden’s specific needs. But, of course, you can always have a mix of the two, keeping in mind that cross-pollination will occur in your garden and possibly make different plants. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Which Seeds Are Better, Open Pollinated or Hybrid?

Hybrid seeds are better in terms of disease resistance and speed of growth and fruiting. However, hybrid plants often produce weaker flavors since the goal is to mass-produce a crop rather than create quality taste. Open pollinated seeds are best for small-scale gardening and more flavorful fruit.

However, both can be easily grown in a home garden, although hybrid seeds are typically used in large-scale farms. Most of the produce in grocery stores today comes from hybrid plant seeds; this is why most of their fruits and vegetables appear so uniform in size and color. 

If you want to learn more about growing store bought vegetable seeds, you could check out my article about peppers: Can You Grow Store Bought Pepper Seeds?

How Can You Tell if a Seed Is Hybrid?

You can tell a seed is hybrid if the plant exhibits rapid growth, which differs from other plants of the same type. The fruit of hybrid plants also tends to come in more vibrant colors and uniform sizes. Additionally, when you buy seeds, the package will usually state if the seeds are hybrid. 

Another tell-tale sign that your seeds are hybrid is if the seeds from that plant aren’t the same as their parent plant. Hybrid F1 seeds tend to degrade in quality and have difficulty growing; this is why it’s best to replant your hybrid plants each year from new seeds rather than from the seeds your plants produced. 

How Do You Tell if a Seed Is Open Pollinated?

You can tell a seed is open pollinated if it produces plants whose fruits are unique in characteristics like size and color. With open pollinated seeds, it’s difficult to get produce that looks exactly the same across the board. The fruits of open pollinated seeds are also more intense in flavor.

Open pollination also results in the breeding of desirable traits slowly over time. Seeds from open pollinated plants adapt well to your garden as the seeds gradually develop to suit their environment. Also, in terms of cost, open pollinated seeds are much better than hybrids since they are safe to replant every growing season. 

Final Thoughts 

Open pollinated seeds are great for the average home gardener who’s looking to grow their seed supply or produce incredibly flavorful fruit. On the other hand, hybrid seeds are undoubtedly the way to go if you want to grow crops on a large scale or with specific colorations and tolerances. 

Both seed types are ideal for different kinds of gardening. The type of seed you choose depends entirely on the kind of gardening you wish to do and the variations you prefer.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

Recent Posts