Average Days To Maturity: 90-100 days
Distance Between Rows: 1.5-2 feet
Spacing Between Plants: 18-24 inches apart
When To Plant: Charley recommends planting Stevia in mid to late April after the threat of frost, but experienced gardeners can plant earlier and protect the young plants with buckets and milk jugs or start them out in a cold frame or small greenhouse.
Planting Tip: When growing Stevia in a pot or container, make sure there is good drainage. This can be achieved by putting a layer of gravel or small rocks in before the dirt.
Stevia has shallow roots so it is a good idea to compost around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and to feed the plant. Because of this you will need to take care of weeds with extreme caution.
Preparation and Care: Stevia grows best in rich soil that is a bit loamy. If your soil is sandy, add compost for extra nutrients. Make sure that you plant in an area that drains well and does not hold water when it rains.
If you live in an area where there is not much chance for frost, you might be able to leave your Stevia in the garden. Be sure to only cut it back to about 4 inches high. Covering your plants before a light frost may give you a little longer to harvest.
Make sure there is plenty of air flow around the plants to prevent rot and disease.
Watering: Stevia likes to be kept moist but not soggy. A regular watering regime works best. It may require more water in periods of drought.
Fertilize: Too much fertilizer will reduce the sweetness of Stevia. If you work in compost or low nitrogen fertilizer when you plant, you shouldn’t need to apply any more. If you didn’t work anything into the soil, adding some compost or low nitrogen fertilizer around the base of the plant once should be sufficient.
Harvesting: It seems that farming is definitely an early morning chore. It is best to harvest most herbs as soon as the dew has dried. If you wait until evening the sun tends to evaporate the oils that produce the flavor and aroma.
While you can harvest most herbs as soon as they get big enough, Stevia gets it’s best flavor in the fall when temperatures are cooler and days are shorter.
Clip the stems of the Stevia plant with shears or scissors. Hang in bundles in a warm, dry place that has good air circulation. When you can crumble the leaves with your fingers, then you are ready to grind them into powder. You can use a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder. This powder will store for a long time. You can also lay the leaves out in the full sun for about 12 hours. Much longer and the flavor will be severely diminished.
Stevia is quickly becoming the favorite substitute for sugar but use caution when cooking with it. It can be much sweeter! There are several recipes out now that use stevia or you can go by trial and error. Always start with just a little bit and add until you have the desired sweetness.
Common Insect Problems
Stevia is not usually bothered by insects. In fact it may repel them.
Common Disease Problems
Stevia is not bothered by many diseases.