How to Read a Seed Packet

What do you get when you buy Botanical Interests seeds? Master Naturalist Sarah Jay outlines all the information contained in one of our seed packets and how to read it here.

Close-up of different seed packets on the store counter. Botanical Interests seed packets are characterized by their visually appealing and informative design. Featuring vibrant and detailed botanical illustrations, these packets provide a clear depiction of the mature plant's appearance, complete with flowers, foliage, and sometimes fruit.


Some seed packets are easy to decipher, with all the most basic information listed on the outside of the packet. Others have much more to offer, with more details about the variety and how to grow the seeds inside. There are even packets that have useful information inside.

Botanical Interests packets are chock-full in this regard. There is so much included in them that you may wonder what exactly each piece refers to. We can help with that! This piece is meant to address the content of Botanical Interests seed packets and how to read them. 

Our packets are the kind that have instructions and variety-specific materials inside and outside the folded paper. There are so many things to glean from the included info. Here, we explain what info is provided and where to find it for successful growing.

Seeds Featured In This Article

Alaska Shasta Daisy

Alaska Shasta Daisy

Our Rating

Alaska Shasta Daisy Seeds

Butterflies Flower Mix

Butterflies Flower Mix Seeds

Our Rating

Butterflies Flower Mix Seeds

Robust Popcorn Corn

Robust Popcorn Corn

Our Rating

Robust Popcorn Corn Seeds

Reading the Seed Packet Exterior

Aside from the obvious variety names and basic growing instructions, there is much to cover on the exterior of your Botanical Interests seed packets. There may even be a few things you have yet to discover about them. 

On the Front

Close-up of a row of Botanical Interests seed packets. Botanical Interests seed packets are characterized by their vibrant and visually appealing design. On the counter there are packets of lettuce, onion and pea seeds. They display detailed illustrations of the mature plant, the packets provide a clear and colorful representation of the flowers, fruits, or vegetables that the seeds will produce. The packaging includes key information such as planting instructions, growing tips, and the plant's ideal conditions.
Seed packets display common and botanical names, plant type, organic certification, variety, price, and growing information.

At the top of the seed packet is the common name of the plant. This is the most commonly used name outside of the botanical realm. Common names are important, even though they’re not considered botanically significant, because they hold colloquial meanings about a plant.

The first word after the common name, in all capital letters, is the type of plant. You may notice TOMATO or CAT GRASS listed at the top. Underneath is the common name for the plant type. For example, cat grass has Oats listed.

Below that is the botanical name. This is the botanically agreed upon genus and species for the plant in question among the scientific community. Botanical names help people determine a plant’s specific needs by acting as a funnel for information about the species, including native range, habits, and the like. 

On some of our seed packets, you’ll see a green banner superimposed over the common and botanical names. This indicates you’re working with a USDA Certified Organic plant. You’ll also notice the USDA Organic seal on the top-right of the packet. 


The left-hand side of the packet lists information about the variety. If you see HEIRLOOM in all capital letters, you’re working with a plant that has been handed down over multiple generations. The seeds are open-pollinated, meaning identical seeds form from fruiting bodies after successful pollination by pollinators, wind, and even rain.

Plant Hardiness

Then, you’ll notice the hardiness status of the plant – whether it is perennial, annual, or biennial. This indicates the life cycle of the plant and how long it will grow. Annuals grow for one to two seasons, perennials last for multiple years, and biennials last for two years.

Sun Exposure

Sun exposure is a key element for deciding where to plant. On the front, you may notice Full Sun, Partial Shade, or Full Shade distinctions. Full sun indicates at least 6 hours of semi-direct to direct sunlight daily. Full shade, on the other hand, means you should avoid hard afternoon sunlight.

Days to Maturity

Nearby is a range of days. These are the days it takes for seedlings to emerge after planting the seeds. Use this to tell you about how long to expect sprouts from your seeds. Varying conditions can speed up or slow down this time frame, but generally, this range should be on point.

A little info about placement, sowing, or bloom times is listed below the days to emerge. This varies from packet to packet, but the content there is always useful

On the Back

View of a counter with rows of Botanical Interests seed packets. On the counter are various flower seeds such as marigolds, coleus, cosmos, Beebalms, Black-eyed Susan, black eyed susan vine and others. Featuring vibrant watercolor illustrations, each packet showcases a detailed and accurate depiction of the plant or flower it contains.
The left panel of seed packets includes planting details, while the right side provides additional instructions, certifications, and essential seed information.

The blue panel on the left can be cut out and included with your starter pot or a stake placed next to your plant. This panel includes the common name, a drawing of the seedling (so you know what it was you planted), days to emergence, and seed planting depth

Spacing and Thinning

Seed spacing, or how far apart to plant seeds, is also included. Then, there are instructions for thinning your seedlings as they emerge if that’s required. Thinning is the process of removing some of your seedlings to make room for others with proper spacing.

Sometimes, you’ll broadcast certain seeds, and they don’t require thinning. But there are times when even broadcast seeds need thinning. Pay close attention to this line on your packet to ensure you give each and every seedling the room and nutrients it needs to grow!


The number of days it takes for your seeds to reach full maturity is there, too. At the very bottom of this panel, you have a space to write when you planted your seeds, giving you another reference point for organizing your garden. If seeds don’t emerge around the timeframe, it’s time to start new ones or focus on other plants.

Sowing Instructions

On the right-hand side, you’ll get more information about the seeds, including sowing instructions. The bottom back side of the packet contains the open-pollinated and untreated and non-GMO certifications. You’ll also see copyright and Botanical Interests contact info.

Package Date

On the bottom right-hand corner, the seed’s lot number, the year the seeds were packed, and the sell-by date are all present. These pieces are so important not only for our warehouse team, as they’re packing your order, but also for you as you decide what to plant for the year.

It’s a good rule of thumb to plant all the seeds in a packet within a three-year period. Most seeds have reduced germination rates after that time. Sometimes, I’ll make blends of my old seeds – more than three years old – and broadcast them to see what works. 

Finally, the far left flap indicates there’s more info inside! Here we go. 

Inside Your Seed Packet

I didn’t know for a long time that Botanical Interests seed packets were so full of useful tips that the interior of the packet is used to give important info as well. This shows how much goes into these packets before they’re manufactured and sent to stores. 

The Left-Hand Interior

Closeup of Cherry Tomato seeds spilled from a seed packet on a white background. These seeds are tiny, round, and smooth, with a light tan to brown coloration.
The left page details common name, botanical info, family, native range, and growth habits.

The left-facing page repeats the common name and gives a little botanical deep dive into the plant. Specifically, the family and info about the plant family are included, as well as its native range. All these bits give you more information about the plant’s growth habits

Hardiness is also repeated, just to give you another place to reference the plant’s lifecycle. Then there’s material about starting your seeds. All the soil, light, and water needs are part of this, as well as the proper temperatures to work within. 

General information about the plant, its history, and its uses are present too. Additional information and alternate ways to use your harvest are included.

The Right-Hand Interior

Closeup of Thyme Seeds spilled from a seed packet on a white background. The seeds are small, round, and slightly irregular in shape. They are dark brown in color.
The right-facing inner page complements the left, covering overflow topics, fun details, and frost dates.

The right-facing inner page acts as a space to carry over topics that couldn’t fit completely into the left-hand inner page. If that isn’t the case, you’ll see fun words about the plant, quotes, or poems. Information about the last frost date may also be listed here. 

A Few Seed Packet Examples

To give you a sense of what we’re talking about, here are some variations on our seed packets. Each has a certain style that gives you relevant information and tells you how to proceed with the plant in question.  

Cat Grass

Cat Grass Seeds

Cat Grass Seeds
  • Safe Alternative to Harmful Houseplants
  • Year-round Availability
  • Aids Digestion and Reduces Furballs
  • Optimal Height for Consumption
  • Controlled Feeding Guidelines
View at

I included this seed packet as an example because it’s a fun one! When you grow cat grass, you grow it in a container where your cat can visit and nibble here and there. In that vein, the packet exterior lists information about where to place the growing container. 

The interior also provides instructions geared toward growing in a planter. This highly detailed information makes it easier for you to get a little pot of cat grass growing. My favorite thing about this packet is the poem placed next to the container growing instructions. 

Ace 55 Bush Tomato

Ace 55 Bush Tomato Seeds

Ace 55 Bush Tomato Seeds
  • Classic Heirloom Variety
  • Excellent Fresh Tomato Flavor
  • Lower-Acid Profile
  • Ideal Size for Canning
  • Exceptional Yields
  • Determinate Type
View at

Here, we have an example of an heirloom veggie. You can tell it’s an heirloom from the title on the left-hand side of its front. Also on the front is the green banner and seal indicating it’s a certified USDA Organic seed. Furthermore, its annual hardiness is there. 

Just under the title is a section that shows the tomato is determinate, meaning you won’t need to trellis it as aggressively as you would an indeterminate species (which continues to grow throughout its life cycle rather than topping out). A few other veggies, like cucumbers, are like this. 

Bring Home the Butterflies

Bring Home the Butterflies Flower Mix Seeds

Bring Home the Butterflies Flower Mix Seeds
  • China Aster
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Borage
  • Calendula
  • Balsam
  • Crimson Clover, and more!
View at

This packet is interesting because instead of working with just one species, we’re planting a blend of multiple. Care instructions are therefore compiled with overall habits in mind. These are organized in a way that caters to the specific list of species in the blend. 

Another cool aspect of Botanical Interests mixes is they include each species and the general weight of those specific seeds per mix. This doesn’t mean there are more seeds, but that the seeds may actually be larger and weigh more than smaller ones.

Alaska Shasta Daisy

Alaska Shasta Daisy Seeds

Alaska Shasta Daisy Seeds
  • Historical American Garden Favorite
  • Continuous Blooming Season
  • Easy to Grow from Seed
  • Long-Lived Plants for Years of Enjoyment
  • Attracts Bees and Butterflies, Great for Cut Flowers
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This daisy is a cool heirloom flower that comes from hybridization of two species. You’ll notice it’s a hybrid from the ‘x’ in the species name. However, this is a stable hybrid that produces true-to-type seeds and has done so for over 50 years. F1 hybrids at Botanical Interests will say ‘hybrid’ next to the species name.

When you buy cutting garden flowers from BI, you’ll also see recommendations for how and when to harvest the flower and how to care for it while it’s in a vase. With this one, there is also a fun poem, a recipe, and information about how to dye the blooms.

English Thyme

English Thyme Seeds

English Thyme Seeds
  • Versatile Culinary Herb
  • Key Ingredient in Bouquet Garni
  • Landscape Plant with Delicate Features
  • Drought-Tolerant and Hardy
  • Excellent Container Plant for Indoor and Outdoor Enjoyment
View at

This standby herb has a long history, and its packet doesn’t skimp on the story behind its cultivation and use. Historical info often comes into play with herb packets because these plants have had a multitude of uses over time.

Herbs have a kind of dual-purpose packet as well, appearing like a veggie seed but containing instructions like flower seeds do. That means you’ll see harvesting information and planting techniques, also.

Robust Pop R400MR Popcorn

Robust Pop R400MR Popcorn Corn Seeds

Robust Pop R400MR Popcorn Corn Seeds


  • Large, Round Popped Kernels
  • Perfect for Treats
  • Similar to Cracker Jacks® Popcorn
  • Versatile Culinary Uses
View at

Here’s another fun one, and an F1 hybrid at that (indicated by the word ‘hybrid’ listed after the species name. Hybrids with this distinction are not heirlooms, as they’ve been crossed with other species over a year or more. 

This corn is used to make Cracker Jack, so there’s an interesting discussion about this popular popcorn preparation. Important material about special germination and pollination is also there, as Robust Pop has considerations that need to be met in its life cycle for good yields.

The coolest part of this packet is the interior. It shows the difference between popcorn varieties in illustrations. This is just one of many ways your understanding of the plants you grow will be enriched when you grow Botanical Interests seeds. 

Final Thoughts

Now you know all the information you have at your fingertips when you purchase Botanical Interests seeds. There aren’t many suppliers out there that provide as much information, and the seed quality from BI can always be trusted. 

That means not only do you get high-quality info, but you get seeds to match. 

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