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Stevia is an easy herb to grow even as a houseplant. Plant some this year and grow stevia to use in place of sugar.
Last Spring, I came across some Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) plants while picking up some bedding plants. I remember just a few years ago, even stevia seeds were hard to find and they were very expensive. Finding growing Stevia plants was impossible, at least here in south central BC.
Now the price has come down somewhat, and they are being sold as seedling plants as well. This is great for those of us who want to grow Stevia. Of course, if you would rather not grow your own Stevia, you can buy a bundle of the herb at your grocery store. Then, just follow the directions below to dry the leaves to use as a natural sweetener.
How to Grow Stevia
I picked up two plants, repotted them into larger pots (with good drainage holes) and they sat out on the porch all Spring and early Summer. Since stevia grows best in full sun, the sunny porch was a great place for them. Water them regularly and add a little natural fertilizer to the soil before planting.
Stevia is hardy in Zone 11 (USDA hardiness zone) and grows wild in warm climates like Brazil and Paraguay. Definitely higher than the hardy zones in Canada, so potted plants cannot stay outdoors past late summer.
Once the nights started really cooling down, I brought the plants in and set them in a sunny window.
Here are a few pictures of the plants and how I use harvested and dried the leaves.
I think it’s much better for a person to use Stevia rather than Sweet n Low or Splenda, as the Stevia plant has no chemicals in it. Just add water with no fertilizer and it is a “natural” plant.
Growing Stevia as a House Plant
It’s quite a pretty plant – I should have probably kept it trimmed lower but I let it go. Eventually it started trailing. If you grow Stevia in a hanging container, it will just spill over the sides and trail down.
To harvest Stevia, you can easily pinch off a few fresh stevia leaves at a time if you like, or let it start trailing and then give it a good haircut!
If you have several stems that are trailing down, just cut one whole stem off for using. The rest of the plant will keep growing.
Always try to keep the flower buds from forming – this is nature’s way of trying to bloom and set seed. The best way to do this is to keep trimming off any tiny buds you see starting to grow.
If your plant has already started setting flowers, pinch it back hard to remove all the buds and blooms. You can still use the leaves at this point, although there is a chance your Stevia will have a slightly bitter aftertaste.
I snipped the stems right above a spot on the stem which had two leaves on either side. I snipped the leaves off of the stem and onto a large plate.
You may need to rinse the leaves but the leaves on my plant were very clean so I didn’t bother to wash them.
How to Dry Stevia
When I was finished I had ended up with a large serving platter and a wide serving bowl full of Stevia leaves. Any large shallow bowl or open weave basket will work for air drying. Look how many leaves I was able to harvest, yet the plant will keep growing.
All I did to dry them was to leave them out on the counter out of direct sunlight. I would give them a good stir with my fingers two or three times a day. Within a few days, they looked like this:
Once they felt quite dry to the touch, I put the dried leaves into a Ziplock bag and used my rolling pin to crush the leaves.
Crushing Stevia Leaves
You could do this by hand if you prefer not to use plastic. A mortar and pestle or food processor would work great for this step of the process. You could also use your food dehydrator to dry leaves more quickly. This would work well if you have a large amount to dry. We usually air dry herbs here, but other methods work just as well.
Then I transferred the crushed leaves into a small glass jar with a lid. Any airtight container will work for storing the dried herb. I have been using it in my coffee, I just add it in with a spoon.
The sweetness flavor is a lot like sugar and it does taste good. You can even bake with it. Stevia is a lot more healthy for a person that using sugar. If you want some great recipes using Stevia, take a look at the link.
Why not grow Stevia this year? You can find more information about how to grow Stevia here.
Don’t want to grow your own Stevia? You can buy low calorie Stevia sweeteners such as:
- Stevia powders
- Stevia extract
- Stevia Liquid
- other Stevia products
Grow Stevia this year and use as a natural sweetener.
Here’s how I dry lots of homegrown herbs every year – we use them all winter.
The very best way I have found to preserve Basil – it still tastes fresh even in February!
Lovage is a herb that tastes like Celery – here’s how to grow Lovage in your herb garden.
Want to find out which are The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?
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published January 2017; latest update January, 2023