Do you enjoy growing your own herbs every year?
Well, what if I told you that you could grow a healthy sweetener option as well? Thanks to stevia you can.
Now, stevia is great for people with diabetes who need to avoid sugar or those that just don’t want the extra calories.
But how do you grow stevia? Are there particular things you should know before planting it? I’m going to answer all of those questions right here.
Here is what you need to know about growing stevia:
What is Stevia?
Stevia is a herb that is used as a natural and low-calorie sweetener. It is also a perennial, which means it will come back year after year.
However, the leaves stop producing quite as much after year two. This is why many recommend that you replant every two years.
Finally, stevia doesn’t have different varieties, like some plants. It is straightforward. Some nurseries sell stevia simply as Stevia Rebaudiana. While other places will sell it as Candy Stevia, Sugar Leaf Stevia, and Stevia Sweet Leaf.
Either way, it is all the same plant and is said to be 20-30 times sweeter than regular table sugar.
How to Grow Stevia
Stevia is such a simple plant to grow. You can buy it online or at a local garden center. You can also start stevia from seed in later winter to have your own seedlings.
Either way, stevia is ready to plant after the danger of the last frost has passed.
1. Plant the Stevia
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You’ll want to plant it in full sun and in well-drained soil that is loose too. Stevia does not like soggy soil.
Once the stevia is planted, you’ll need to mulch around it to keep the plant from getting too dry. When the surface of the soil is dry, then you’ll know it is time to add more moisture.
Also, you’ll want to be sure to give each stevia plant about 18 inches of space all the way around and leave two feet between each plant.
You may want to consider planting three to five stevia plants to have as much sweetener as you’ll need for the year.
2. Add Water and Compost
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You’ll want to be sure to feed your plants with compost or store-bought plant food to keep them healthy and provide the nutrients they need.
Keep in mind that your stevia can be grown in a pot as well. You will need to use a high-quality potting mix and make sure the soil is loose and well-drained.
Also, realize that each plant should grow to be about one to three feet in height as well.
Caring for Stevia
Stevia is an easy-going plant to have in your garden, container garden, or herb garden. There are only a few things you need to do to continue having stevia at your fingertips year after year.
1. Trim it Back
Stevia needs to be trimmed. When the plant first reaches eight inches, it is time to knock it back some because this will encourage the plant to grow outward instead of being skinny and grow up.
This is good because when it grows outward, it should produce more foliage. That means more product for you.
2. Use Cuttings to Replant
I already mentioned that you need to replant stevia every couple of years because the amount of foliage produced falls off.
Well, instead of purchasing seeds, use the cuttings from the stevia when you trim it back. You can root it and produce more stevia plants.
3. Fertilize Regularly
Next, you need to fertilize regularly. If you use store-bought plant food, then follow the instructions on the packaging as to how frequently you should feed your stevia.
But if you use compost, then try to make sure that you apply a fresh layer around the base of each plant about one time per month. Do it more frequently if you think it needs more nutrients.
4. Overwinter the Plant Properly
Finally, stevia can survive over the winter in the right climate. If you want to keep your plant alive and producing year-round, then bring it inside in front of a warm window to keep it from dying off until the next year.
Troubleshooting with Stevia
When people grow stevia, they usually run into one of two problems. These are what they see:
1. Stevia Dies Due to Frost
If you live in a colder climate, don’t be surprised if your stevia gets chilled to the bone and dies off completely. This happens sometimes.
Which is why we recommend bringing the plant in to overwinter it, or to cover it from frost until the plant falls dormant.
Then it will hopefully come back next year. If not, then plant stevia as an annual. You can start it from seed every year to help curb the cost.
2. Stevia Dies Due to Soggy Soil
It is essential that stevia is planted where the soil is well-drained. The reason is that too much water will rot the roots of the plant.
If this happens, your plant will die. It is important you use a quality soil that is loose and well-drained to prevent this from happening.
Best and Worst Companion Plants
Every plant has other plants that it does better when planted alongside and some that they don’t do so well with.
Plants that stevia works the best with are marjoram and thyme. They form mounds when producing which is why stevia works well.
Since stevia is tall, it stands up over the other herbs. There aren’t any plants that stevia has issues with when planted nearby.
How to Harvest and Store Stevia
In case you haven’t noticed, everything with stevia is super easy. Why would harvesting and storing be any different?
Here is how you harvest and store stevia:
1. Cut the Stems at the Right Time
It is said that stevia leaves are at their sweetest when the fall cools everything down. With this in mind, if you want extremely sweet stevia, then fall is your best time.
However, if you aren’t particular to the level of sweetness, then you can harvest the leaves as they come ready throughout the summer growing season.
Once you are ready to harvest, you’ll need to use scissors and cut the entire stem off that has the mature leaves on it.
2. Pull the Leaves
Next, you’ll need to wash the stems under cold water to make sure there are no dirt particles.
Then you’ll want to dry them with a paper towel and make sure you remove as much moisture as possible.
From there, you need to pull each leaf off of the stem by hand and place them on a paper towel to let the rest of the moisture drain while they are waiting on the rest of the leaves to be picked.
3. Dry the Leaves
Finally, you need to put the leaves either in a dehydrator or on a screen in the sun where the leaves can have airflow all the way around them to dry completely.
Once they have dried, you place the leaves in a food processor until they are well blended. Then store them in an airtight container until later use.
How to Utilize Stevia
Once you grow stevia, you have to know how to turn it into a usable product. Yes, you can put the ground up leaves into your beverages as is to sweeten.
But wouldn’t you like to know of a few other ways you can turn those stevia leaves into something useful?
Here they are:
1. Stevia Simple Syrup
When I can fruit, the recipes often call for a simple syrup. I am also someone that tries to avoid a lot of sugar because of the extra calories.
In this case, a simple stevia syrup could come in handy. It helps that the process is straightforward too. You just boil stevia in water until it thickens.
Then you utilize the syrup. Overall, it takes about five minutes and cuts a lot of calories.
2. Sugar-Free Ice Cream with Stevia
Do you love ice cream, but don’t like the pounds it packs on you? Maybe you have diabetes and have to watch your sugar intake?
Well, either way, this recipe is a delicious and easy recipe to make ice cream. However, it uses stevia in the place of sugar.
Then you can put your stevia to use and enjoy your ice cream too.
3. Easy and Cheap Stevia Extract
Do you like to use stevia extract instead of using it in powder form? If you aren’t sure how to go about doing that, then you need to follow this tutorial.
It is a cheap option to making your own stevia extract, but it also includes easy-to-find ingredients.
If you have vodka and your crushed, homegrown stevia, then you are on your way to making stevia extract.
Well, you now know how to grow your own stevia, how to care for it, how to harvest it, and even have a few recipes to know how to utilize it.
Remember, stevia is a pretty easy-to-handle plant. Regardless of your green thumb status, you should be able to find great success in raising it.
But I’d like to hear from you. What has your experience been like in growing stevia? What do you do with it? Do you have a favorite method to utilize it?
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