How to grow Stevia?

mosesong(z5 KS)May 17, 2007

I picked up two small Stevia plant from the local farmer. When I was at the market, he pinched a small leave and let me tasted it. It's sweet and I was excited, that's why I picked up two because he said it's hard to find.

Anyway, I have them in the pot now and they seems to be doing fine. I was looking for planting information, a search in Gooogle brought me to Wikipedia, talks about all bunch of chemical structure vs sugar etc. Turns out it was ban by FDA in 90s and now is coming back. It's originated from Brazil and is up to 300 times sweeter than Sugar.

I like to keep this plant as long as posible. Anyone know if it will survive in Zone5? Also, take full sun? Growing height/spread information. Some uses information would be good. All I know is you can bruce the leave and put into tea, I like to see how I can use it in dessert.

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The plant originated in Paraguay, which gives it its other name Sweet Herb of Paraguay. The botanical name for it is Stevia rebaudiana, and it has no known relatives.

The ban by the FDA was politics gone crazy and it makes interesting reading on just how stupid the bureaucrats can be!

The link below takes you to lots of previous threads about Stevia, but here's some info on it:

Tender perennial in warmer climates, treat as an annual in cold areas. Grows to 80cm tall and 60cm wide. Leaves can be from 2-8cm long and 5-30mm across, with gentle serrated edges. The leaves form in whorls on the upright stems. Small white flowers, with a similar appearance to heather, come in clusters on the tips of the stems in summer and autumn.

Propagate by seeds or by tip cuttings taken in summer, or root division in spring. Seeds are notoriously infertile and slow to germinate. Flowering usually occurs 54-104 days after transplanting. The plant is climatically suited to climates from temperate to sub-tropical where temperatures range between 21-43C, with an average of 24°C, but it will also grow in the tropics, where it prefers shade and will also grow in cold climates with winter protection. Plants in the ground have been noted to take minimal frosts. It is a somewhat temperamental plant and may be slow to grow at first. Even in ideal conditions, it is not uncommon for plants to die suddenly or to lose their leaves. As long as the roots are alive, the plant may regrow. Poor, loose, well drained soil is recommended. The plants need to be well-mulched so that surface feeder roots do not dry out. For gardeners in cold climates, it is recommended that plants be started in large pots so that the pot can be moved to a warm verandah in winter. In cold climates, the plant may go dormant to the ground. As stevia does not over-winter outdoors in freezing conditions, the roots are lifted in autumn and stored indoors in perlite or sand and then set outside again in spring. Stevia requires regular watering in dry periods but has poor tolerance to long waterlogging or to saline water or soils. In its natural habitat, the plant occurs naturally on acid soils of 4-5 pH but will grow well on soils up to 9 pH. Leaf yields can be increased with a moderate application of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertilisers. Plants also respond well to liquid seaweed as a foliage spray applied fortnightly. As soon as the plant flowers, the leaf production slows down, so it is an advantage to nip off flower buds, to encourage further leaf development. If the plant is left to flower, the tip leaves take on a slightly bitter overtone. Because of its gangly growth, plant several together for support. Plant will die if left go to flower, so it should be cut back repeatedly to prevent flowering.

Harvesting: Collect leaves as required, preferably in autumn. They can be dried and powdered.

Culinary Uses: Use dried, powdered leaves as a substitute for sugar. One tablespoon of stevia or less is equivalent to about 1 cup sugar. Some people notice a slight after-taste, while others do not. A liquid sweetener is made by pouring 1 litre boiling water over 1 tablespoon dried leaves and leaving to infuse. Refrigerate and use within a few days or freeze for later. To make a syrup, place 4 teaspoons dried powdered leaves in a saucepan with 2 cups water, simmer slowly for 10-15 minutes. Cool and refrigerate. A teaspoon of Vitamin C powder may be added to act as a preservative. An infusion of fresh or dried leaves can be drunk as a beverage, hot or cold, or added to other herbs as a sweetener. If using fresh leaves to replace dried quantities listed above, multiply the amount 5 times. Approximately 6 large leaves chopped finely is a substitute for 1/2 cup of sugar for baking or in cooked recipes. 1 teaspoon of ground stevia is equal to 1 cup of sugar; 2 drops of liquid essence is equal to 1 teaspoon sugar. An extract can be made by combining 1 cup vodka with 3/4 cup fresh stevia leaves in a jar. Shake every day for 2 weeks, then filter through a coffee filter. Add a drop to beverages.

From my own experience of growing Stevia, I've learned to remove the flowers as they appear - otherwise the plant will die down to nothing. I've also found that it's a cantankerous plant which can often die down to nothing for no apparent reason, even in ideal conditions. But you never give up on it! You can have an empty space or pot for up to a year, and then suddenly the plant will resurrect! Amazing.

Sweetness can vary from 10-600 times sweeter than sugar, dependent on a range of factors from soil, climate, time of harvest and many others.

It is NOT a true substitute for sugar in all recipes. It does not dissolve, it does not make a syrup. Consider it as a flavouring, much as you would vanilla.

To be honest, I don't like the taste of it, or rather, the earthy after-taste it has. Some people don't mind it, though.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 7:35PM
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mosesong(z5 KS)

My goodness, 1 table spoon dried leave powder is equal to 1 cup of sugar! These are some useful infomration especially about making syrup etc.

Sound like a quite tempermantal plant, I'm glad they're still young so I can watch for flower and cut them off as soon as I see one. I have a shaded patio so it should be fine, I just have to watch if the weather get above 100F, which we could get a couple days in summer.

Thanks again for the info, I'm going to print it out and file it away!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 9:51AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

I have bought refined stevia and when I tasted just a very tiny bit, the aftertaste stayed with me for a few hours afterward. If you don't mind that odd cloying taste it leaves, then enjoy. Usually, I prefer Splenda to that. In vinegar based pickle making, Splenda has been able to offer quite a lot of sweetening power compared to sugar when mixed with vinegar. I make sweet mixed pickles and most recipes call for about 5 pounds of sugar per batch. I would add just one cup of the 'fluffy' type Splenda and have been seeing nearly the same sweeteness taste, but its not as sticky as sugar.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 6:35PM
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Ha i am going to try to grow Stevia from seed...insane? Perhaps....but i am a seed a challenge! I'll let ya know how it goes!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 5:56PM
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I should have known this.. was so excited to see my stevia flowering that I just let them grow and grow.. after I snipped off the flowers the whole plant started to wither and turn brown.. I remain hopeful that it will resurrect one day :p

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 4:32AM
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zengeos(5 Maine)

The few seeds I got from Fedco germinated quite well...90% germination. I started them over a heat mat.

The first 3-4 weeks the plants did next to nothing and I finally broke down and potted them up in a good potting mix. THEN they started growing nicely. of 6 coir pellets started, 1 died and I gave 1 away, leaving me 4 plants. One is quite large and 2 are medium sized. I planted them out this past's chilly out, but temps are staying around 40 or warmer at night.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 9:42PM
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sidenote: i live close to washington dc and see lots of ridiculous political action. it would seem that if stevia was disapproved by the fda, it could have been a result of a strong sugar lobby...? anyway, we'll see what my little crop will do regardless...

    Bookmark   May 25, 2008 at 8:27AM
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I have two stevia plants, and like others said, it's pretty comparable in usage to splenda. You really can't bake with it, though(nor splenda!) It does have a lot of great other uses and I think it's worth growing. I keep mine indoors in a northern exposure window.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 10:52PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Actually Splenda can be used in some baking unlke something like Nutrasweet which looses its sweetening power. Splenda will not give a cripsy sugar cooky, or a crisp texture to a baked food. Sorbitol may help to give the right texture as a sugar substitute. Stevia is about 10 times more sweetening power compared to an amount of Splenda. I tried stevia a long while back and it left a strong after taste for quite a long while afterwards.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 2:53PM
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My husband just picked up a Stevia plant for me only because it was unusual! I've planted it in my herb garden and it's over 12" tall. I am wondering if I cut it back, will it spread out or will I be taking a chance on killing the plant. He only bought one plant.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 4:48PM
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Stevia is something of a straggly plant, and it responds well to a haircut now and then. I usually wait until it flowers, and cut it back a fair way, even down to about 15cm from the ground. This usually happens in autumn. I've learned that if you allow it to flower, it can die right back. It usually resurrects, but I've known it to wait up to 12 months to do it!

Best rule, especially when you don't know your plant, is to remove no more than one-third of total growth at any one time.

As with most plants, if you chop off its head (remove top growth), you'll be encouraging a squatter, more bushy plant. If you remove side growth, you'll be encouraging a taller, skinny plant. So - with Stevia - chop off its head. As long as you keep to the one-third only rule, you won't harm the plant. You'll be wanting to use the bits you cut off anyway - there's not much difference between 'pruning' and 'harvesting', when you come to think of it.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 8:53PM
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I am interested in having a stevial plant, maybe two or three of them to give as present to my good old friends who are diabetes and like organic food. But I could not find any here at North Atlanta area. I thought Pikes will have them but they don't. A worker told me that they will bring some soon. When? How soon? She did not know.

By the way, FDA aproved stevia sweetner last December . Now I read that Coca Cola Co. is planning to use it. I guess they will have a big stevia farm around here in Atlanta?!?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 10:40PM
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steiconi(12a-Big Island, HI)

The FDA approved two chemicals that are derived from Stevia, but the plant itself and simple derivatives still hasn't been approved, and must be sold as supplements instead of sweetener.

Personally, I look for the variety that says "supplement" because I'd rather avoid the processed stuff.

Better still, I just got a plant that should grow real well here!


    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 5:30PM
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Old thread but interesting.
Last year, for the first time I got to know about this amazing herb/plant.
I was lucky to find them in HD. I bout three of them.Some had more than one
plant in the pot. I separated them and planted them.I had no idea how big they can get.
And they did get very big and bushy. So at the end of season
I dug them up out of my herbs garden and planted in other location.
Here we are, April 2010 and my stevias are regrowing already.
I have also started some from my own seeds.
There goes and grows my high blood presure pills.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 7:35PM
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I have a question related to Stevia for daisy & any other knowledgable folks that might want to chime in. =) My Stevia germination rate so far (6 seeds) is 66%. 4 out of the 6 are little wee plants. It's still not easy to keep them going though! Anyway, I bought a small Stevia seedling (actually two in one pot...yay!) a few days ago. I want to grow & use both, but eventually get one to "go to seed." How do you do this with Stevia? Please LMK.

Thanks - Steve

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 1:27PM
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Steve, I have been also trying to grow stevia from seeds but it feels like eternity
for them to get bigger. Probably an esier option would be to buy plants.
That is what I did last year. I got them from HD. The plants
ovewintered here despite our unusual cold weather down to mid teens. It might overwinter in zone 7, if you mulch them heavily in the winter.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 3:46PM
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I wish I could find some stevia! I love the stuff as a sugar substitute but never find seeds or plants for sale. If anyone knows somewhere in the Plano to McKinney Texas area or further north where I might find it, I would be thrilled :)

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 6:41PM
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Isn't she cute? lol...The other 3 I had germinated got drowned...

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 1:28AM
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check your mail here on gw.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 3:24AM
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Just saw Stevia at Lowes. I've grown it for a few years now, but I think the 3 really cold snaps and snow finally did it in. It's easy; just stick it in a sunny spot and let'er rip.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 9:16AM
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christine97(z7b MD)

Celeste, we are close zone wise and I bought a stevia plant after trying to grow from seeds. Did you leave your stevia plant outside to over winter? I assumed that it wouldn't survive a winter in our zone.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 10:31PM
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gertie2u2: I found my stevia transplants just a couple weeks ago from one of the herb sellers at the Dallas Farmer's Market.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 6:20AM
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I purchased a Stevia plant the other day too... Planning on using the leaves to sweeten tea! I live in Canada, although we do have *hot* summers we obviously have harsh winters... I'm hoping it will survive indoors in our basement (which has been turned into an indoor greenhouse)over the winter. I am new to gardening, especially herbs, and this forum has been extremely helpful so far! thank you.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 12:29AM
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My tiny seedling pictured above is still tiny, but still alive dangit! I'm determined to get this thing to =)

- Steve

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 11:00AM
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Steve, you are not alone. Mine are still tiny too. I sowed them in early Feb.
But luckily my planrs from last year have over wintered and growing nicely.

Last winted our lows were in mid teens and my stevias survived.
I had mulched them heavilly, though mulching cannot insulate but may prevent from rapid cooling and heating.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 6:40AM
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I'm going to let mine grow for another month or two, or at least until it gets to be 2-3 inches tall, then pot it up & see if that helps in the growth.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 1:31PM
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I'm going to buy Stevia seeds to grow. Do I need to buy every some time new seeds or I can take them from the flowers of my new grown Stevia plants? How do you do it?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 5:43AM
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You can save your own seeds.Here is how.
when stevia is bloomong, it is harvest time. Let few sprigs intact with flowers and mature. Then pick them, hang them upside down in shade
or just put them upside down in a brown bag. Collect the seeds, refrigerate.
Seeds are similar to marigold seeds but MUCH tinier.

But growing from seeds ia very time consuming. Unless you have a greenhouse.
I started some in february but they stayed very tiny. Finally I planted them.
Now they are growing.
My plants from last year survived a harsh winter down to 14F. And now they are bushy and about 8" tall.

So my advice to you out there is: If you can find plants buy them, plant them
and forget about growing from seeds. Lowes, HD and some other places sell them for about $3.00.

If you mulcl your stevias heavily in late fall, they will over winter in zones 7 and higher.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 7:42PM
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I have a couple stevia seedling and want to plant them out side.
Could i plant them in sun spot or shade ?
Please help, thanks

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 12:34PM
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I have planted mine in partial shade/sun. They have dine well.
I think, about 4 to 6 hours of sun is enough, especially if it gets really hot.

Note: Give your plants pretty good space. They wll get really bushy, big and tall.
Staking might be good too.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 9:12PM
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I have a Stevia plant I bought last year and let it go to seed, not realizing the effect it would have. Figured the cold was what was causing it to get all spindly and die back. It recovered during spring of this year and after letting it "soak up the sun" for a few weeks, I snipped back the long spindly branches and it seems to have come right back to life!

It's growing fairly tall now, but I'm wondering if I snip it back a tad, will it grow bushier. Will this produce a bigger, healthier plant, overall? Should I do this now, wait til it's close to fall (and heading towards bloom), or wait until it's died back a bit and then snip it back, to promote a bushier plant next spring?

Does Stevia have any beneficial aspects other than sweetness? Does it have any medicinal qualities? Seems the FDA wants to control this plant, so they must see something "medically advantageous" to it, they want to keep us from accessing for free...

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 1:59AM
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sandhill_farms(10 NV)

I'm very interested in the plant after reading an article about it last night. There must be something to it if our illustrious government wanted to control it. Does anyone know what their interest in it may be? How about getting plants, do we know who carries them? Thanks!

Southern Nevada

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 11:08AM
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christine97(z7b MD)

I picked mine up from one of the big box stores earlier in the yr. I ordered seeds from Baker Creek, but they were difficult to grow from seed. A few came up and something must have happened temp/sun wise because they died. The plant is doing wonderfully here in MD with the hot and dry weather we are having this summer. I haven't watered it and it is very big. I put it in sun tea freshly picked and it gets sweet. I haven't tried to use it in any baked goods are anything else yet.

No idea why the government wants to control it. Do they want to control the plants or the companies that want to use the plants to make "sugar" for people to use?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 9:49PM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

You can buy it in farmers' markets, from nurseries that have a good herb selection, or online. Also at the places mentioned earlier in the thread.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 9:13AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

I've gotten seeds from Home Depot, or wal mart (cant rem. which one) but never got them planted. I left my seed box out one night, and rain got it and ruined alot of my seeds. lol.. Live and learn. :)

Try doing a google search for seeds or plants.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 10:08AM
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For those who mentioned or asked about different aspects of the Stevia. When flower buds begin to develop, the plant should be cut back to withing a couple of inches from the soil surface, as flowering spoils the quality of the leaves, and allowing the plant to set seed may actually kill the plant. New leaves will grow from where the plant was cut back. They can live and yield wonderfully for many years. Mine have done well following this method and I have never experienced anything except sweet taste. I am very particular to aftertastes and dislike artificial sweeteners and find this excellent.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 8:18PM
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Medicinal uses of stevia:
Can be safely used by diabetic people. Does not cause tooth decay. A tea from the leaves is an effective external treatment for cuts and abrasions. Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Useful in slimming regimes because of its ability to reduce craving for sweet and fatty foods. Also used in the treatment of high blood pressure, hypoglycaemia and candidiasis.

Usual Dosage: A standard infusion is sometimes used as a natural aid for diabetes and hypertension. 1 cup is taken 2-3 times daily.

Traditionally, the plant has been used as a contraceptive, but modern research has shown no contraceptive agents. I wouldn't trust it for the purpose!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 7:22PM
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Growing Stevia from seed is a little difficult, each plant has it's own level of sweetness, so you may have to grow 100 plants, and taste test each one, and pull the bad ones.

I have a pot of Stevia growing at home, and it's easy to take care of. Mine seams to like twice daily watering and full sun. It's grows similar to mint. Here is what I read

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 8:02PM
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I've read that Splenda is POISON!! Here is the search page I found that has a lot of good information on.,mod=12&ix=h9&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=is+Splenda+poison%3F

After I told my Landlady this a few years ago, she quit using Splenda.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 4:13PM
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I am looking for some photos of Stevia and would like to get in touch with someone who has photos or the like. I am aware, that I can find a lot of photos on the internet, but I plan to use photos in a book I am writing, and I have to respect copyrights. If someone can help me, please contact me.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 8:07AM
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    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 3:41PM
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