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Garden Tips from The Micro Farm Project: How to Grow & Use Stevia

Updated on October 22, 2015

Grow Your Own Non-Caloric Stevia Sweetener

Stevia "Sweet Herb" looks like an ordinary leafy-green plant, similar to a flowering salvia. But if you pinch off a leaf and give it a taste, you will know why this herb is valued for its natural, calorie-free sweet flavor. The leaves contain a substance called 'stevioside' that is 300 times sweeter than sucrose. Dieters and diabetics who hesitate to consume artificial sweeteners may appreciate its natural sweetness that does not impact blood glucose levels.

Homegrown Stevia is not as sweet as commecially refined Stevia, but it is still 10 to 15 times sweeter than sugar. Though native to South America, Stevia tolerates many climate conditions and you can grow your own patch at home for tea, extracts and tinctures.

Stevia is a tender perennial that loves the warmth of the sun and dies back at frost. In warm climate zones, the roots can survive winter and come back in the spring with a little frost protection. In frost-free areas, Stevia can grow all year long as a small shrub. However, after the second year, vigor declines sharply and the plant will most likely need to be replaced.

Here's how to grow your own Stevia patch at home.

Photo credit: By Ethel Aardvark (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

By Sten Porse (Own photo, taken in Jutland.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia C
By Sten Porse (Own photo, taken in Jutland.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia C

Planting Stevia

Planting and spacing: Prepare the soil to a depth of 1 foot, adding plenty of compost to the planting bed. Remove weeds and stones from the garden bed. Set out small transplants as soon as frost danger has passed and the soil warms to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Plant in full sun, spacing transplants 18 inches to 2 feet apart. Dig a hole in the soil twice the width and the same depth as the pot in which the transplant is growing. Remove the stevia plant from the temporary pot, place the roots into the hole and pack the soil around the plant.

Growing Stevia from Seed: Stevia seeds often have a low germination rate; sometimes only 10%. To increase your odds, select only the very dark seeds for planting, which have an 85% germination rate. Keep in mind that Stevia grown from seed may or may not be sweet, so plant more than you think you will need and thin out small plants that do not have sweetly-flavored leaves.

Container gardening: Plant in a large, well-drained container filled with a mixture of potting soil and compost. Water when the top few inches of soil are dry.

By Ethel Aardvark (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Ethel Aardvark (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Stevia Cultivation

Water and feeding: During dry weather, water deeply on a regular schedule, allowing the top few inches of soil to dry between watering. Fertilize monthly using a balanced fertilizer, watering deeply at each application. It has been suggested that adding boron to the garden bed may improve the sweetness of the leaves.

Harvest: Trim back branch tips often to encourage branching and new growth. When the plant reaches 12-15 inches in height, harvest a portion by trimming it back to half its size. Trim it back again in the fall when the weather cools and growth stalls. Harvest the entire plant when flowers begin to appear as the plant may become bitter following flowering. Always harvest in the morning, when sugar content is highest.

*NEW*Sweet* 125 STEVIA dark seeds *rare*Diabetic*#1108
*NEW*Sweet* 125 STEVIA dark seeds *rare*Diabetic*#1108

Stevia seeds can have unreliable germination. The germination rate is higher for Stevia planted from dark-colored seeds than it is from light-colored seeds. Improve your odds of success significantly by purchasing only the darkest Stevia seeds.

 
By NmiPortal (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
By NmiPortal (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Drying Stevia and Making Extract

Dry Stevia leaves in hanging bunches or in a dehydrator at 150 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. High drying temperatures can result in bitter flavor. Store the whole dried leaves in a cool, dark place in an airtight container.

To make Stevia power, remove small branches and grind dried leaves a few at a time using an electric coffee grinder. The powder will retain its sweetness for several months when stored in an airtight container.

Use green Stevia powder to sweeten tea, yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, homemade ice cream and so forth.

To make Stevia extract, bring 1 cup of water to a light simmer. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup of crushed stevia leaves. Cover with a lid and allow the mixture to steep 40 minutes. Strain through a coffee filter. Store the extract a dark-colored container in the refrigerator. Yield: 3/4 cup, equivalent in sweetness to 3 cups sugar.

Use Stevia extract to sweeten tea and lemonade, water kefir, grapefruit juice and other liquids.

By Michael Fludkov [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Michael Fludkov [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Use your own homemade Stevia tincture to make a delicious, refreshing and low-calorie drink.

Serving Size

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lime or lemon juice
  • 5 cups water
  • Stevia extract (to taste)
  • Ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Mix lemon or lime juice with water. Add homemade Stevia extract to the mixture slowly, tasting as you go until it reaches the desired sweetness. Add ice and enjoy!
Cast your vote for Stevia Limeade (or Lemonade)

Learn More about Stevia

Growing and Using Stevia: The Sweet Leaf from Garden to Table with 35 Recipes
Growing and Using Stevia: The Sweet Leaf from Garden to Table with 35 Recipes

Get all the info that you need to grow, harvest and cook with your own homegrown Stevia.

 

Do you have a Stevia tip or recipe? - Share your tips and ask questions here.

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    • profile image

      María Sánchez 16 months ago

      Imposible to grow Stevia at home. If you have a simple method, please let me know. I have Diabetis and I need to grow my owns organic plans. I can't trust in the market products,we do not really know who we buy. Please, help me.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 3 years ago from Topeka, KS

      I use Stevia extract in my vegetable smoothies. Not sure why I haven't tried growing my own yet! It sounds pretty easy to do. :)

    • profile image

      dellgirl 4 years ago

      This is new to me, I've never heard of stevia until now, and I'm very glad to read about it here. Thanks for sharing this wonderful lens.

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      I can't wait to grow some

    • vegetablegardenh profile image

      vegetablegardenh 4 years ago

      Good to know I can grow my own stevia! Thanks for sharing, great lens.

    • microfarmproject profile image
      Author

      microfarmproject 4 years ago

      @GardenerDon: Truvia is a chemically processed form of stevia, that also contains erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and "natural flavors." My opinion is that it is better than other artificial sweeteners, but not as good as pure strevia.

    • GardenerDon profile image

      Gardener Don 4 years ago

      Is a product called Truvia made from Stevia? It looks to have similar attributes.

    • larrybla lm profile image

      larrybla lm 4 years ago

      I just saw Stvia seeds in health food store. I will use your Lens to try growing and making my own sweetner.

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 4 years ago

      Very interesting, didn't know you could grow your own Stevia. Must give it a try on the terrace.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this on The Creative HomeAcre! Hope you can join us again today :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      That is so interesting that you can grow your own stevia. I might have to give it a try this summer.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      You know, I really wanted to like Stevia...but it tasted like saccharin to me. I just use reduced amounts of sugar or honey. Wish I liked it! Thanks so much for sharing this on The HomeAcre Hop!

      Hope to see you on Thursday!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing on Thrusday Favorite Things blog hop...I am the co-host this week! I'm your latest follower...Come on over and share your latest projects on Monday's Show and Tell Party! I'd love it if you followed in return :-)

      Jen

      Throughmycreativemind.blogspot.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing on Thrusday Favorite Things blog hop...I am the co-host this week! I'm your latest follower...Come on over and share your latest projects on Monday's Show and Tell Party! I'd love it if you followed in return :-)

      Jen

      Throughmycreativemind.blogspot.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      We don't grow Stevia - may need to now.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great post! I love stevia and appreciate these tips so much.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      As always you give us such useful and detailed information. Thank you for joining us at Transformed Tuesday this week.

      Hugs,

      Peggy~PJH Designs

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks for joining into FrugalFitFamily's Friday Linky Party! Stevia is so pricey so this is a must try....wonder if I can find some already started....I am not a "green thumb" yet but hoping to be soon:)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very interesting post! I use Stevia to sweeten tea and coffee but have never grown it myself. It's a very pretty plant as well :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I bet stevia users can save quite a bit of money by growing their own. Thanks for linking up with Fabulously Frugal Thursday.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I've grown stevia before, but I wasn't sure how to harvest it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      How cool! Nice, thorough walk-through on growing your own stevia. Thanks for sharing at A Humble Bumble :)