Stevia (sugar leaf)
Paraguay, southeastern Brazil and Argentina
Full sun with afternoon shade (in hot climates)
Rich; must be well-drained soil
4" Pots: $2.20
6" Pots: $3.50
Clay pots and other planters: Prices vary
Stevia is an herbaceous plant which has medium-green leaves with white flowers that bloom in spring (warm climates) or late summer (cooler climates).
Keeping it Going
If planted in the ground, do not dig it up and move it; It is sensitive to transplanting..
Soil drainage and moisture levels must be excellent for Stevia. In the summer, keep soil consistently moist, but not soggy. In the winter (growth is slow), let the soil go almost completely dry or it is susceptible to root rot.
Stevia has a shallow root system. To protect it from the heat of the sun, apply mulch around its base.
Fertilize with a regular well-balanced plant food throughout the growing season. Organic is the best choice because it releases nitrogen slowly.
Harvest before the plant flowers. After flower buds appear, the leaves are less sweet.
When flower buds appear, harvest the entire plant.
Points of Interest
Stevia has been used for millennium as a sweetener, a digestive aid, and a topical healing agent by the native people in southern South America. It wasn't introduced to the rest of the world until the late 19th century.
It can be used fresh, dry, powdered, or as a liquid to sweeten food and beverages.
It is 20-30 times sweeter than sugar cane.
It is heat stable to 392 degrees F.
It contains protein, calcium, and numerous vitamins and minerals.
Stevia will not elevate blood sugar levels, does not promote tooth decay and it doesn't have any calories.
It can be grown as a house plant.
It is best when harvested in the morning when the "sugar" content is the highest.
The FDA determined that the sweetening agent rebaudioside in Stevia is safe, but consult a physician before using natural Stevia if you are pregnant or under a doctor's care.