Time for a new plant in my Garden: Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)

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I First tasted this when a friend of mine had a plant in a pot on their front porch.  She used the leaves to sweeten her ‘Sun Tea’ and I had just happened to get a leaf in my glass.  I asked about it and she replied: “Chew the leaf a bit, You’ll be surprised.”

Boy was I surprised!  It just kept getting sweeter as I chewed.  The stuff is really amazing!  I’m going to put some in my Garden this year as an Annual (I’m in Zone 6) for some fun.

If you like sweets but want to limit the sugar you ingest, take a look at Stevia.   Doesn’t affect blood sugar levels, may increase insulin response, tastes 30-40 times sweeter than table sugar……

Sounds a lot like a Win-Win-Win situation to me!

Plant Specifics

  • Name: Stevia rebaudiana (Stevia, Sweetleaf, Sugarleaf)
  • Zones: 5 to 9  (Annual in 5 to 7; Perennial in 8 & 9)
  • Soil Type: Sandy, well drained
  • PH Range: 4 – 7.5 (Acidic)
  • Preferences: Long Sunny Days in Temperate climates, and Partial Shade in Tropical climates.

 

Planting Guide

Growing from seed is very difficult as germination rates vary widely.  A 10% Germination rate is common but some Gardeners have reported up to 80%.

Most propagation is achieved by cuttings and small plants started from cuttings are normally available.  This is probable the best route to get started.  I’ve order a pack of seeds which I’ll try along with the Cuttings.  As always, I’ll report back with my results.

When planting in Garden Beds, Allow 10 inches per plant.

When Potting, a 12 inch round pot is considered minimum.  16 inches would be better.

Stevia can grow to 24 inches in height.

It needs a balanced 10-10-10 NPK mix.  Do not over do the nitrogen as this can affect the taste of the leaves.

Prune constantly to prevent flowering.

Harvesting

Harvesting should be done throughout the growing season.  Pruning to suppress flowering will prevent the leaves from souring too early.  Once flowering occurs, the leaves will become bitter.

Near the end of the Annual season: Cut the entire plant and hang upside-down in a dark, ventilated area to dry.

In a Perennial Zone: Cease the harvest when flowering occurs.

Our Table

Stevia leaves can be placed whole in Hot liquids such as Coffee or Tea to impart their sweetening.   The leaves can be ground into powder or an Extract can be made.  It’s really up to you how you prefer to use this wonderful sweetener.

 

 

As always, Please feel free to email or comment on this Post with feedback, suggestions, or thoughts. I always like to hear them.

 

Until next Time…Stay Curious!

 

 

 

 

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