Stevia

Stevia Planting Guide

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Stevia rebaudiana     Full Sun - Partial Shade     Soil pH: 4.5 to 7.5


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SeedsStevia Seeds

Stevia is an herb which serves as a natural and safe sweetener, it has no calories and it is considered the safest and healthiest sweetener there is. Various types of stevia are extracted from the leaves of stevia plants, different forms have varying levels of sweetness.

It's simply not possible for most home gardeners to grow sugarcane or other sweeteners in our gardens, Stevia is the exception. Many varieties of Stevia will fit well into a small herb or vegetable garden.

Stevia is a delicate perennial, native to semi-humid subtropical regions. Stevia requires more moisture than most plants, as it is native to marshes and swampy areas , it doesn't tolerate arid conditions, but also does not tolerate standing water for prolonged periods as this will promote fungus, rot and disease. Organic mulch and frequent watering will ensure constantly moist conditions , while hills or raised beds will help prevent problem associated with standing water.

In most areas of the Northern US and Canada, Stevia will not survive the winter and can be taken indoors or grown as an annual.












In the southern states it can be grown outdoors year long.

Stevia is a delicate plant generally grown as perennial, but will generally only be productive for 3 - 4 years when it should be replaced.

In colder climates, Stevia should be planted after the last frost and treated as an annual. Longer summer days favor leaf yield and quality - Stevioside content increases , stevioside is the natural compound that gives Stevia its sweetness .

Soil Preparation

Stevia does best in a well-drained sandy loam or loam soil. A rich organic compost made with will certainly improve soil structure and supply necessary nutrients. Stevia when grown wild does okay with a Soil pH of 4 to 5, but thrives even more with a soil pH as high as 7.5. Stevia does not tolerate excessively saline soils.

Although Stevia is grown for its leaves, it has been proven that high nitrogen fertilizer, which promotes foliage growth is not advisable for Stevia plants. It produces excessive low quality growth with poor flavor. Bone meal or blood meal, as well as well dried manure will provide nitrogen that is slowly released. Bone meal will also provide phosphorous and many trace minerals. A low nitrogen formula is recommended at the initial planting and again in mid summer.

Raised Beds are great for Stevia Plants. Raised beds prevent standing water and helps to reduce soil compaction. A organic mulch will help retain adequate, but not excessive moisture and also suppress weeds.

The hill system is also good for Stevia, as excessive moisture will drain quicker - but an adequate organic mulch will retain enough. Set Stevia plants in low hills spaced about a foot to a foot and a half apart. You need to put more soil around the plant base during the growing season.

Stevia seeds aren't always easy to find and when you have them , they frequently have a low germination rate. If you do have Stevia seeds, they can be easily germinated indoors, under Grow Lights is best. Seedlings grow slowly, so allow 6 to 8 weeks from seeding to outdoor transplanting. And sow more seed than you expect to plant, as the germination rate is frequently very low. Try to maintain a temperature of 70 F to 75 F by adjusting the light level . Small containers with drainage or plastic cell packs are best.

Plants / seedlings from reputable suppliers are more advisable than seeds. There are different plants that are called Stevia,it is actually a genus of plants, such as pumpkins being related to squash . Stevia rebaudiana is the species you want. Stevia stem cuttings will root easily under long day conditions. Grow Lights are ideal for this if being done indoors.

In outdoor garden beds, space Stevia plants 8 to 10 inches apart in a row, generally with two rows per raised bed or. You may want to stagger the rows. Cooler night temperatures will cause plant growth to cease. in cooler areas Pre-Fabricated Cold Frames, hot caps or row covers will promote faster growth and protection from rogue frosts.

Plant Care

A consistent moisture supply is vital to a successful Stevia harvest. Irrigate frequently , but not excessively. Sandy soils require more frequent irrigation. At the peak of Summer I prefer to water every other day, however common sense observations will of course influence this. Dry hot weather or heavy wet rainy conditions should influence how often you supply water.

Try not to water from above , although this is not always feasible. Watering from above will attract disease and pests to the plants. Try not to splash dirt onto the plants as many plant diseases are from soil borne pathogens. This of course is minimized assuming your plants are properly pruned.



Mulch helps to keep water where it's needed and slows down the evaporation process. Drip Irrigation systemsDrip Irrigation Systems for Stevia and other garden plants with an automatic timer provides regular and consistent watering. Drip Irrigation also allows water to penetrate deeper into the soil, increasing uptake by plant roots.

Stevia stems are brittle and frequently break under windy conditions. Pinching the tips out every 3 to 4 weeks will encourage side branching, resulting in a bushier plant less susceptible to wind damage. If possible try to grow Stevia in a protected area . Supports similar to that used on tomato plants is also a good idea.



Troubleshooting

Aphids, Thrips, and whiteflies are sometimes pests of Stevia, particularly whiteflies when grown indoors or in greenhouses. Horticultural oil will suffice in mild infestations. NeemNeem Pest Control Stevia and other plants in severe ones.

Harvest And Storage

Flavor of Stevia, it' sweetness is best just before bud break and flowering. This occurs anywhere from mid summer to late Autumn depending on growing condition. Plants should definitely be harvested before the first frost. When growing Stevia as a annual cut the entire plant at the soil level.

When growing Stevia as a perennial cut the plants about a half foot from the soil level so they will re-grow the following season. Harvest in the morning, after any dew has evaporated, or in the early evening under dry conditions is best.

Plants can dried by hanging them upside down in a warm, dry well ventilated location. Once dried they can be stored in mason jars and have a shelf life of several years so long as they are kept dry. A food dehydrator on low heat about 100 F will also do the job. The leaves should be green, crisp, and crumble easily when done.







 

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