Stevia is part of the sunflower family and is native to South America. Its very sweet leaves have been used as a natural sweetener for centuries throughout South America and its extracts have been said to be 300 times sweeter than sugar.
Although sweet and tasty, this plant is notorious for being difficult to germinate. With the right light and heat, your seedlings may be successful, but it is a lot easier to buy transplants from your local garden store.
Stevia is considered a tender perennial, but is usually grown as an annual due to climate. Brining this plant inside during the winter may allow you to overwinter the plant without having to buy a new plant every season!
As with many vegetables, stevia likes rich, loamy soil, meaning a soil that has a good variety of sand, silt and clay particles that not only contribute to good drainage but also good nutrient and water holding capacity. Organic matter and good compost will help build healthier soil and your stevia plants will appreciate the tender love and care.
As with most plants with a shallow root system, make sure not to overwater, and make sure to water frequently during the summer. A layer of mulch and organic matter in the summer will help retain moisture and add organic matter.
Diseases and Pests:
Stevia can be affected by two lesion producing fungal diseases, in which a dark brown lesion forms on the stem, resulting in wilting followed by death of the plant. In most cases, the stevia plant has already finished growing, so the whole plant can be harvested at first sign of disease.
Generally pests aren’t a problem for this plant, but ensuring good air circulation and a diversity of other plants will go a long way in a positive direction!
How to use:
-can dry the leaves
-can make an extract by boiling leaves in hot water and then straining the mixture
Some ways you can use this plant include:
-a sweetener for teas, beverages, fruit, salad dressings, yogurt, and other creamy desserts
If you have any plant questions feel free to email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have a fruit/vegetable/herb that you would like to learn how to grow, email email@example.com and you may see it in upcoming "Plant of the Week" posts!