What is Stevia Plant?
The Stevia plant, or sweet leaf, is an alternative to sugar that you can grow in your own garden. Stevia has zero calories and has no impact on blood glucose levels. It originates from Paraguay and the Brazilian heights in South America and has been used as a sweetener for centuries. Traditionally, it has been used to sweeten tea and its medicinal properties. Refined stevia products are available for a more standardized sugar substitute, but with a little creativity, you can use leaves or dry extracts in many different recipes.
Stevia is a real surprise. The leaves of this herb are 20-30 times sweeter than sugar. Glycosides (stevioside and rebaudioside) are 200-300 times sweeter. It also does not contain calories, which means that it can be consumed by diabetes as it does not increase blood sugar levels.
Scientific Classification of Stevia Plant
Species: S. Rebaudiana
How to Grow Stevia Plant?
Stevia plants prefer mild temperatures, dry places, and full sun. So you can grow in pots or outdoor and bring containers indoors in colder climates.
Growing Stevia Plants From Seeds
Stevia is easy to start from the seed. This plant likes it to be warm, so the seedlings only grow until about mid-summer.
- Plant the seed in fertile, clayey, and undisturbed soil in the sun.
- Put the double quantity of seeds that you would normally produce for other plants since the germination rate may be lower compared to different types of seeds.
- Put 1-3 seeds in each cell and cover lightly with fine mold or 1/8 inch thick vermiculite.
- Spritz or mist with water to fix the soil. Put the seeds under a clear plastic wrap (you can recycle plastic product containers or use specific products to start the seeds)
- The seedlings do not require much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half of an indoor supply of whole food) according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Make sure not to overwater when the soil surface is dry.
- Seeds will germinate in 14-21 days.
- As soon as seedling germinates, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow 3-4-inch seedlings under fluorescent lights that are turned on 16 times a day, from here for 8 hours a night.
- If you grow into small cells, it may be necessary to transplant the seedlings into 3 or 4-inch pots when the seedlings have at least 3 pairs of leaves before transplanting them into the garden so that there is enough room for them to develop strong roots.
Stevia plant care
Where to plant?
With height and spread from 1 to 2 feet, Stevia grows well inside the containers. It set in outdoors as long as the weather is mild, and temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Because it is a perennial herb, you can move its container from the inside out when the weather permits. If you live in USDA 10 or higher, you can grow it in the garden.
Like most herbs, Stevia thrives in full sun in all climates, except for the warmer climate. When the typical summers are hot, organize a light evening shade.
Stevia requires fertile and well-drained soils, in both pot and the yard. Choose a rich growing medium, such as compost-modified soil or soil. Since Stevia prefers well-drained, consistently moist soil, water retention can sometimes be a problem. Apply mulch to retain moisture.
Do not let stevia soil dry out completely, but stagnant water or wet soil should avoid as they will promote root rot. Once established, Stevia is low water consumption and a low maintenance system.
Stevia can attract aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs, so check it often, especially even under the leaves and around the ground if you find parasites, an insecticide that sprays with light. Stevia responds well to fertilizers that contain more potassium and phosphorus than nitrogen: organic fertilizers are ideal because they release nitrogen slowly.
Small brownish brown spots with white to gray centers are created on the upper surface of the leaves and along the central part. Lesions can surround the stems and cause wilting. This disease exacerbates by hot, humid, or very humid climates. Burpee recommends: avoid letting water get into the foliage. Remove the parts of infected plants and do not work around wet plants. Provide a lot of air circulation. Contact the Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations on fungicides.
For colder climates, bring the plants indoors before the severe frost if you want to keep them year on year.
How to extract Stevia with water base at home?
- Dried Stevia Leaves 2 cups.
- 1 cup of water
- Boil the water in saucepan up to when you see small bubbles on the pan.
- Put Stevia dried leaves and stir it.
- Remove from heat and cover the pan with the lid up to 40 minutes
- After that, strain out all the leaves and pour the extract in a clean glass jar.
- Store the extract in the refrigerator, the best use for sweetening tea, and other beverages.
Uses of Stevia plant
Stevia is a sweet plant that used from the 16th century to sweetened beverages and tea. Stevia has numerous uses and benefits for health.
- Stevia leaves are uses as tea and beverages, snacks, and smoothies.
- Stevia does not have calories and carbohydrates as they don’t affect blood sugar levels and insulin, so it is best for diabetic patients.
- It is helpful in overweight and obesity as common white sugar has more calories, which may lead to overweight. So stevia leaves as sugar are more beneficial for weight loss and control obesity.
- Stevia contains many sterols and antioxidant compounds, which decreases the risk of Pancreatic Cancer.
- Patients of hypertension and high blood pressure can use Stevia to lower down their blood pressure.
- It helps to reduce the cholesterol level of high cholesterol patients.
- Homemade Stevia extract is harmful to use during pregnancy, So refined Stevia from shops like Reb-A evaluated for safety during pregnancy.
Where can I buy the Stevia Plant?
Stevia plants can be bought at your local nurseries. You can also buy seeds from various stores like Etsy and Amazon and get it delivered to your doorsteps.