Stevia is an interesting plant that will be one of your favorites once you taste the leaf! Hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and much more nutritious, one can put it in tea to make the bitterest of blends taste like heaven. Stevia is native to South America which makes it a true tropical, and you can grow in the ground to make LOTS of leaf. A very choice plant for your garden and teapot.
Stevia is an easy plant to grow if you follow the requirements and recommendations we give. We do find that it likes to be cut back often. If you let it, it will get leggy.
Common name: Stevia
Botanical name: Stevia rebaudiana
Type: Herbaceous perennial (evergreen if frost free)
Scarification/Stratification: None needed
Self fertile: No
Hardiness: 10 F
Sow temp/season: Sow in late spring or in soils of 80-85F
Sow depth/spacing: Surface sow, then press hard, then sprinkle with perlite
Germination time: 1-2 weeks
Final spacing: 18”
Final height/spread: 3 feet tall by a 3 feet spread.
pH range: 6.0-7.8
Soil type: Rich garden soil that contains lots of organic matter.
Nutrition: Likes calcium and magnesium.
Drainage: Likes water, but it is best to not be in standing water.
Water requirement: Likes lots of water. Not drought tolerant.
Root type: Thick spreading and delving roots emanating from large crown.
Companion plants: Mints, strawberries, basil, tomatoes, cucumbers and friends of those.
Pest and disease resistance/susceptibility: Slugs, aphids, thrips and whiteflies.
Sun: At least 4 hours of direct sun. Likes afternoon shade.
Time to maturity: Can harvest leaf in 90 days after germination. Will flower first year if started early. Best to harvest leaf in cool weather.
Hilling: None needed.
Suckering: Will send out suckers from crown of plant.
Propagation: Best to sow seed in one gallon pot. Sow many (whole seed pack) in one pot, then individuate into gallon pots when two inches high. Grow plants in pots for the first year, then transplant to landscape or larger pot in the second year. Can take stem cuttings. Use rooting powder or gel. Cuttings root best in warm moist environment, in the shade.
Hybridization: Keep different varieties of stevia separated by a minimum of 100 feet if one intends to save seed.
Uses: Stevia is grown for its leaf. The leaf is used to make a sugar substitute. One can boil the leaf then decoct the solution after straining to make a base for preserves or can be used in sauces or teas. Most folks just put some leaf in their tea blends. Will really sweeten up your bitter blends.