Saturday, June 30, 2007

Growing Stevia-the Sweet Herb

Growing Stevia can be difficult (from seeds). Even if you get the seeds to germinate, stevioside levels can vary greatly from plant to plant grown from seeds.

You should try to get Stevia plants that have been grown from cuttings of plants that where high in stevioside. Getting them from someone you know, and trust to know what they have.

Young Stevia plants are sensitive to low temperatures, so you should wait until any chance of frost has past and soil temperatures are into the 50/60's before transplanting them into to the garden.

Stevia plants should be put in to rows 20 to 24 inches apart, and 18 inches between plants.

Your plants will grow a height of around 30 inches high and about 24 inches wide.

Your soil should be rich and loamy . Stevia's feeder roots are near the surface, so ad compost for extra nutrients if your soil is sandy.

Stevia roots are sensitive to excessive moisture. Be careful when watering and make sure their soil drains easily. Frequent light watering is best during the summer months.

Add a layer of mulch around each plant to keep the shallow feeder roots from drying out.

Organic fertilizers like fish emulsion, cow manure, etc., are good because they release their nitrogen slowly.

Waiting as late as possible to harvest can intensify the sweetness of the plants due to cool autumn temperatures and shorter days while they grow into their reproductive state.

You should cover your plants in the early frost so you can gain a few weeks growing and greater sweetness.

When it's time to harvest, prune off the branches before removing the leaves. You can also cut the tips off the stems since they can also be high in stevioside.

If you live in a frost free climate you can leave your plants outside but do not cut the branches to short leave around 4 inches of stem. Your second year harvest will then be more successful. I use row covers to protect the plants during the winter.
If the survive, that is good, if not, I just plant new ones in the spring.

You will need to replace the plants about every 2 years with new cuttings. Stevia is akin to sage in the sense it becomes woody and will stop producing after a few years.

Cuttings must be rooted before planting. You can use commercial rooting hormones for best results.

A great site to learn more about Stevia.....

Bea Kunz/Sage Hill Farms


Jessica Sellers said...

Hi Bea,

Thsnk you SOO much for that article! I was going to try to get some Stevia seeds but maybe now I will try to find someone local who has some cuttings. I am excited to see how this will work. Thank you for sharing your excellent gardening expertise!

Jessica Sellers said...

Well I finally got some stevia, 2 different kinds! I got some green leaf powder and a white concentrated powder. I learned that stevia can be a flavor enhancer so I tried sprinking a little bit of the powdered leaves on my taco meat last night and it was yummy. Not too much, mind you, but enough to really get the flavors melding.

The white concentrated powder also makes some great lemonade.

Anyway thanks for all the great information and for getting me on the stevia kick!