Looking for a natural sugar substitute!? Then, growing the Stevia plant is your answer. Grown for its sweet leaves, Stevia herbs are calorie-free and carb-free. It doesn’t impact blood sugar. The leaves of this herb can be as much as 30 to 40 times sweeter than sucrose(sugar). Native to subtropical regions of Peru and Brazil, Stevia is a perennial. It is susceptible to frost and does not like cold weather. So, it is grown as an annual in many areas.
Use Stevia leaves as a sweetener dried or fresh. Grind the leaves as a sugar substitute.
Stevia is a good container plant. You can grow them indoors as a houseplant, in the fall. Just make sure to bring it indoors before the first frost.
Flowers Bloom: Summer
Flower Colors: White
Plant height: 12 to 24 inches tall.
Hardiness Zones: 8 – 13, tropical and sub-tropical areas.
Stevia leaves can be used raw or cooked. Try it as a natural sugar substitute in your favorite recipes.
In addition to using the dried, powdered leaves, the green leaves can be put in water. The sweetened water is then used in recipes.
Try stevia as a herbal tea, too.
Stevia plants are started from seed. Start Stevia seeds indoors, about 8 weeks before the last frost in your area. The seeds are hard to germinate. Low seed germination rates are common. It is suggested that darker (more mature) seeds are more likely to sprout.
Seeds sprout best at 65-degree soil temperature, or a little higher. We highly recommend the use of germination mats.
Many growers start plants from cuttings. If you are in a warm-weather area and grow this plant as a perennial, growing them from cuttings is far easier, than trying to sprout the seeds.
Final Plant Spacing: Space seedlings, or thin plants 10 to 12 inches apart, in rows 2 feet apart.
Days to Germination: 7 – 21 days.
Transplant Stevia plants into your herb garden after the last frost in your area.
Stevia plants prefer warm to hot weather. They grow well in full sun to partial shade.
The plants grow best in light sandy or well-drained loamy soils. They do not like wet soils.
Do not use a lot of nitrogen fertilizer. Your plants will do well if you add compost or mulch on top of the soil. This will feed your plants slowly.
While the plants do not like wet soils, they also do not like dry soils, either. Keep the soil moist, not wet. Mulching plants helps to retain good moisture levels.
Pinch back plant growing tips, to create bushy growth.
Over winter the plant sin cold, or freezing weather. They are not tolerant below 45 ° F. They are good houseplants.
Ideal pH: 6.7- 7.2
You can harvest Stevia leaves as soon as there is enough to use. Pick leaves in the morning, when sweetness is at its maximum.
Pick leaves before the plant begins to flower, as the leaves then turn bitter. Pinching off flower blooms, as soon as they begin to appear, prolongs the harvest.
Harvest the entire plant in the fall before the first frost. Hang plants upside down to dry, in a well-ventilated area. After they are dry, remove the leaves. You can also use the tender, young growing tips. More on Drying Herbs
Use a coffee grinder to powder the dried leaves. Store powdered leaves in an air-tight container.