I am sure, You might have noticed something like F1, F2 or F3 Hybrid seeds or sometimes Heirloom seeds written on seed packets. In todays episode we will look into What these letters and terms actually mean and whats their importance in gardening.

Today we will learn:

Types of Seeds: Hybrid seeds (F1 F2 F3), Heirloom seeds and Open-Pollinated seeds. And importance of knowing these types in gardening, specially for those who think of saving their plant seeds for sowing in next season.

Lets begin with Hybrid Seeds. Let us first know What this letter F stands for. The letter F represents filia  – its a latin word means daughter. So the Hybrids seeds are of 3 types F1 F2 and F3. These are produced by cross-breeding of two stable plants with different genetics and the pollen from the male are used to fertilize the female. If you want to learn some basics of pollination, I have an animated video explaining pollination and seed formation HERE.

 So Now lets understand F1 F2 F3 by drawing a family tree.

Imagine plants as people! So the first generation daughers or seeds are simply F1. And F2 are grandchildren and F3 are great grand children.

That means F2 are produced from F1 and F3 are produced from F2. This is so simple. But why these numbers are important in choosing the seeds when you visit a garden store or even purchase seeds online.
Well, You must know what you are Purchasing, whether children, grand children or great grandchildren!  So what actually happens at some point of time with these generations and what to expect in such plants. We will look into this now.

Now Regarding F1 Hybrid seeds or or first generation seeds:  Just remember, if you purchase a packet of F1 seeds, you should get the exact qualities of the parents like flowering, growth potency and disease resistance and it should produce those picture perfect flowers or fruits that’s printed on the seed packet. So If you can get F1 seeds, they are the best. But True F1 seeds are generally expensive. So always purchase them from a trusted seed company.

F2 Hybrid seeds or second generation seeds.:  When F1 plants produce flowers and when they self-pollinate or hand pollinated, then F2 seeds are produced. They are sometimes known as S2 – S stands for Self. So hows this important to us. F2 generation plants have a lot of genetic variations and are often less vigorous and may not always produce the original flowers as displayed in seed packets.  But many F2 seeds from good companies can also produce identical flowers, fruits or vegetables similar to the parents. F2 seeds are popular now a days because they are very inexpensive and have some decent disease resistance as well.

Some gardeners might think of Saving seeds from plants grown with F2 seeds. F3 seeds do not have that potency and qualities of F2. So the best seeds are F2 and F1.


 Now lets learn two more terms used in gardening – open-pollinated and heirloom seeds:

Open-pollinated plant cultivars are pollinated by natural pollinators like the insects, birds, wind, or any natural mechanisms or even if pollinated by hand.

 Heirloom seeds actually have a history of being passed down within a family for many generations like something similar to generational sharing of heirloom jewelry or furniture. Some seed companies even sell very old heirloom seeds (like cultivars that are more than 50 or even 100 years old).

The Seed Savers Exchange defines heirlooms as cultivars that have been saved and shared by generations of home gardeners.

One more point to remember is some people think Hybrid seeds are the some synthetic modern seeds produced by genetic modification. These Genetically modified (GM) seeds  or crops are actually different and these are created by using the advanced GM technology in agriculture.

SO, there you have it folks.

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