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Botanically, the stevia plant Stevia rebaudiana is called, but is also known by many names such as sweet herb, sweet leaf or honeywort. The plant belongs to the genus of stevia in the daisy family and has been used for many centuries for its tremendous sweetening power. However, stevia is not authorized as food in the EU and is therefore sold as a cosmetic product.
The stevia is a perennial plant that originates from Paraguay in South America and therefore loves heat very much. It is up to a meter high and has leaves that are two to three inches tall and standing opposite.
Planting Stevia is very fortunate because it only germinates as seed that is not older than six months. In addition, the germination rate is only 13 to 15 percent even with fresh seeds.
Propagation of stevia
The most promising is the breeding of seeds, which is also possible from cuttings. This is best done in a hothouse, as it can extend the growing season. Alternatively, you can often buy in a garden center or in the garden department of a good hardware store the stevia plant.
When breeding by seeds is important that a constant temperature of 22 degrees Celsius is maintained. The seeds are placed on the surface of the seed soil in a flower pot and pressed. With soil, you should not cover the seeds, because the stevia is a light germ.
Then the soil should be moistened well and the flower pot covered with a foil or a glass. In a bright and warm place it usually takes only about ten days until the first seedlings emerge. Afterwards every single plant is re-piped.
As a perfect soil for the stevia, a permeable substrate has proven itself. Besides these things, it is also important that the pot is big enough. The stevia forms extensive storage roots, so a pot of 16 to 18 diameters is required. Especially when the stevia is to find its place on the windowsill and not in the garden, a sufficiently large pot is crucial for a good outcome.
The perfect care of the stevia plant
Forget about the lack of frost, then the stevia is a fairly undemanding plant. Even if it comes from subtropical climes and it therefore rather humid and warm, it can tolerate temperature fluctuations very well.
Fertilize the stevia only very sparingly. During the growing season and later, the stevia loves an interplay between wet and dry. This stimulates their root growth and makes the stevia better able to thrive. You should definitely avoid a waterlogging, otherwise the roots rot and die quickly. In the summer, when it is in bloom, you should always cut back the Stevia sideways, since it can drive out new.
This is how the stevia can overwinter
The stevia has no hardiness, which is why in this country each year a culture must be recreated. Alternatively, you can bring the stevia into the house in autumn. Here it prefers a breezy and sunny location, which is also valid for the location in the garden.
Because the stevia is a subtropical plant, it can tolerate heat very well and it likes rather damp. For hibernation in the house cut off the above-ground planting parts and dig out the roots. These come in a flower pot and can overwinter at temperatures between ten and 15 degrees Celsius. In spring, the plant then sprouts again and can be set outdoors.
If you keep the stevia permanently on the windowsill, it changes towards the colder seasons. Then the upper parts of the plant die off and the plant retreats into the rhizome. It remains a scrawny scaffolding, which in no case means that the plant is dead.
The dead plant parts should then be cut off, because now the plant has simply entered their resting time and can then winter in the winter garden or in a bright basement room.
Harvest and use of stevia
The harvest takes place between September and October, at the latest before the first frost occurs. The leaves of the stevia are used directly. They can be used fresh or dried. Stevia is used, for example, to sweeten teas and foods. Since the leaves of the Stevia are about 30 times sweeter than beet sugar and contains 300 times less calories than table sugar, the Stevia offers itself as a sugar substitute.
Since Stevia is also temperature-stable, unlike the sweetener aspartame, it can also be used for cooking and baking. The dried leaves of stevia can be stored for many years.