Stevia is an exciting plant for herbal garden because of its natural and calorie free sweetness. The perennial plant loves the warm sun but dies back in a freeze. In zone 9 and warmer conditions, the roots survive the winter and often come back in spring. With protection, it can also survive winter in zone 8. Herbal gardeners in frost-free areas love growing the plant all year-round and allow it to grow into small scrubs. Its vigor tends to decline after the second year, so replanting is encouraged if you want maximum amount of foliage.
Planting and Care
Stevia needs around 18 inches space or room of its won. If you are gardening in containers, give stevia at least a 12-inch pot with the right potting mix. It’s better to place it in full sun and remember to water it when the top inch of the potting gets or feels dry. It grows up to 1 to 3 feet in height in loamy and well drained soil. However, this depends on the growing season. Don’t plant during frost: wait until all the danger of frost have passed before you plant stevia. You can also mulch to prevent it from drying during hot summer days.
Good Drainage Is Important
Stevia doesn’t do well in soggy soil, so ensure that it has good drainage to prevent its roots from drying out. One tale-tell sign of rot is wilting, especially if doesn’t recover after you’ve watered it. The great thing about stevia is the fact that few insects bother it.
Harvest and Storage
Stevia’s leaves are sweetest in cool temperatures and taste best prior to blooming. To preserve it and make it more convenient to use, you can dry it. One day should be enough to dry stevia leaves. Ensure that you bring the leaves in before dew dampens them again. Food dehydrators can be used to dry the leaves. Once they are dry, crush or powder them with a food processor. Store in a cool dry and airtight container.
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