You can start your own stevia plants one of three ways.....
1.) Indoors with seeds
2.) Planting rooted cuttings
3.) Cloning with rooted cuttings
Option #1 is a little tricky since the germination of stevia seeds is spotty. Even if you start them in late winter, you might find yourself needing a grow lamp as stevia thrives on full sun. Increase your odds with seeds by 85% by selecting only the very dark seeds to plant.
Option #2 is ideal. Check the herb section or perennial aisle at the garden center where you shop. Use your one small plant to create 3 or 4 more plants in pots. But you might have to locate a mail-order supplier. Or you could pop over to my house and snag a few clippings. If you're part of a garden club, ask around. Maybe you can participate in a plant exchange?
Option #3 is what I will be trying. You will get an exact replica of the plant unlike a rooted cutting. But of course you will need a cloner. I'll keep you posted on how this goes!
- Stevia seeds or cuttings
- A pot at least 12 inches in diameter for each plant with drainage holes & drip tray.
- If growing multiple seeds you'll need recycled flats or small containers as shown here.
- Rich and sandy potting soil that is lightweight in texture.
- Compost and organic fertilizer to add to the soil.
- Depending on your climate and indoor growing conditions (how much sun you have coming through a window), you may need a grow lamp. In Buffalo, we actually don't need one, but it's typically very sunny here in the January and February months!
- Full sun (in hot climates likes afternoon shade).
- Raised beds, well-drained soil or pots for excellent drainage (roots will rot).
- Good air circulation especially in humid climates.
- Moist potting soil/light textured sandy mix like the one made here that is rich with organic fertilizer and compost.
- Plants should be in an accessible spot ~ to maximize leaf production you will be continually trimming back plants. This encourages branching for a wider & fuller plant that is better to harvest.
- Stevia likes to be watered. It's a balance between keeping the soil consistently moist without overwatering. A little tricky! Misting is always a good technique.
- Neutral pH is best.
- Mulching is good for keeping roots cool, preventing moisture loss and keeping down those weeds.
1.) Don't try planting stevia seeds directly outdoors as it typically doesn't work. Start stevia seeds indoors by late winter approximately 8 to 10 weeks from last frost date. For the initial planting small flats with 1-inch pockets work well. Or, just use whatever recycled plastic containers you have on hand that measure about 3-inches in diameter so they don't have to be transplanted twice.
2.) Germination does best between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. A grow lamp is preferred.
3.) Expect your first seedlings in about 7 to 21 days.
4.) Only plant the darkest seeds for best results
5.) Never transplant outside until nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit consistently.
6.) When transplanting outdoors in your well-drained beds, space small plants 18 inches in rows 20-24 inches apart.
7.) If you wish, you can start plucking individual leaves at any stage of growth to crush and use, similar to the basil plant. In fact, think of stevia like basil as the growing requirements are similar. Just never remove more than 1/3 of the plant at a time if you want the plant to continue to grow.
1.) If planting for rooted cuttings you can start much later than from seed. March is spot on.
2.) A rooting hormone powder is helpful but not absolutely necessary to encourage sprouting.
3.) Propagate stevia plants from cuttings or leaf tissue that has proven successful in the past. This is the advice I'll follow too for cloning ~ if it worked once, it'll likely work again.
4.) 12-16 hours of light per day is critical. If you don't get this type of light where you live, a grow light might prove essential to get your cuttings to sprout instead of rotting.
5.) Keep grow light about 9 inches above the cutting until they develop healthy roots. Plant stevia in a few old rotisserie containers for that greenhouse effect!!
6.) Transplant outside in May or June if you are starting them in March giving them about two months to mature.
7.) You may want to harden them for about a week before transplanting.
8.) Stevia can grow 1-3 feet high!
- Left on its own stevia will grow spindly and lanky producing small white flowers in late summer. But those in the pictures have hit their flower peak in December so nothing is an exact science!
- Prune first when the plant in about 8 inches tall. Do it again in early summer and one last time in fall when new growth slows. Pinching back several times a growing season is essential because it forces the plant to branch out. You can use the leaves that you harvest right now or you can root them to multiply your plant supply.
- The leaves are sweetest just before the plant flowers in late summer and fall. The cooler temps seems to intensify the sweet flavor so this is a good time to harvest as stevia can get bitter on you! This is especially true if you wait too long. Harvest just prior to flowering for best results. In fact, just watching for the buds to appear and harvesting then works well.
- Harvest by cutting the entire plant right down to the base. Use a rubber band to tie loose branches together and hang upside down for about a week. Extract the leaves from the stem and grind into a powder using your coffee grinder (which you don't even use for coffee beans since you got that Keurig!) Store stevia powder with your other herbs in an airtight container away from heat and light.
While you can just chop up fresh or dried leaves and use, making the stevia powder makes sense for long-term usage and storage purposes. Sprinkle the powder in your coffee and tea for the sugar rush minus the calorie rush. It also works wonders in your homemade dressings, yogurts and will be a welcome addition to your oatmeal or cereal.
One last tip....
When using the stevia powder, use about 1/8 teaspoon of dried stevia to equal the sweetness of 1 teaspoon of sugar. Remember: it's 300 times sweeter than sugar!
Stevia extract - Bring 1 cup of water to almost boiling and add 1/2 cup lightly crushed stevia leaves. Remove from heat. Cover with lid. Steep for 40 minutes. Strain through coffee filter and pour into a dark-colored container. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Do not overheat as it can make the batch bitter.
Yield: 3/4 cup (6 ounces) = 3 cups sugar.
What do you use to sweeten your food and drinks?