Sweet stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) or sugar stevia, a sweet grass. Call it what you will. This super plant is native to the warm regions of South and Central America. The plant is one of more than 200 other species of stevia, but only this one produces a sweetener. It has such a high sweetening power that it has come to be used as a sugar substitute. It contains steviol glycosides that sweeten your drink up to 450 times more than conventional sugar. The indigenous people of Paraguay called the herb honey leaf. They used it to cure weakness, for example, to bring their blood pressure back to normal, and for digestive problems.
The plant is perennial and can grow up to one meter tall.
Stevia can be grown in multiple ways
Stevia doesn’t require very demanding soil, it can get by with nutrient-poor soil. You can grow stevia from seed or from cuttings. It can be grown in the garden or on the balcony in pots.
Prepare nutrient-poor soil by mixing it with sand. Just press the seeds lightly into the substrate, don’t cover them, they need light to germinate. Plough lightly to prevent the seeds from washing away and cover with glass or plastic sheeting. Temperatures around 22 °C are not suitable for germination. The plant will germinate after about ten days.
Another option is to take cuttings from the shoots that the stevia grows profusely. Using a sharp knife, cut 10-15 cm long cuttings with lithes. Remove the lower leaves and reduce the upper leaves by about half. Root the seedlings in a container of water, then plant them in sandy soil.
You can grow stevia well in the garden, but ideally only from spring to early autumn. The plant does not overwinter outdoors in our conditions.
What are the conditions for stevia?
Stevia is a thermophilic plant that requires slightly warmer temperatures even in winter. Stevia can last up to 6 years with proper care. What conditions do you need to provide for it?
- a sunny and warm place, but not in direct sunlight, and in winter a temperature of around 18 °C and less light;
- substrate mixed with sand and a drainage layer under the roots;
- moderate and regular watering and occasional fertilization;
Give stevia the right conditions and it will reward you with white flowers and sweet leaves.