Stevia, (Stevia rebaudiana), also called sweet leaf, is grown for its sweet-tasting leaves. The plant is native to Paraguay, where it has a long history of use.
The leaves contain a number of sweet-tasting chemicals known as steviol glycosides, which can be used fresh or dried to sweeten beverages or desserts or can be commercially processed into powdered noncaloric sweeteners. Steviol glycosides, particularly the chemicals stevioside and rebaudioside A, can be more than 300 times sweeter than table sugar and they do not affect blood glucose levels.
- Stevia needs full sun to thrive, so pick a site that receives at least six hours a day of direct sunlight.
- Stevia grows best in soil or potting mix rich with organic matter. Avoid chemical fertilizers when planting stevia, since these can affect the sweetness of the leaves.
- Sow the stevia seeds three inches apart, and about a half-inch deep.
- Immediately after planting, water the area gently to help the soil settle. Keep the soil evenly moist as the seeds germinate.
- Germination is very slow and germination can be erratic, so it is advisable to plant multiple seeds and to employ patience.
- If you plan to transplant the seedlings, you’ll need to thin them once they reach at least two inches tall. Thin the seedlings back until they are at least six inches apart to give them room to grow in the garden. To grow the seedlings in indoor pots, thin the seedlings to two to three plants per large pot to give them additional room.
- Once the weather outside is warm enough, transplant your Stevia seedlings into the garden, allowing at least 18 inches of space between plants.
- Once the plant starts putting energy into flowers, the leaves become less sweet, so harvest the leaves before flowering.
Information is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment offered by healthcare professionals.