Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana). Stevia, sometimes known as Sweetleaf, is a native of South America grown for its sweet-tasting leaves. Stevia can be used as a sugar substitute and is reportedly 200-300 times sweeter by weight than cane sugar.
Cultivation: Stevia is a tender perennial grown in Ontario as an annual. Stevia can be started from seed indoors (though the germination rate may be poor) or from rooted cuttings. Plant stevia outside after all threat of frost has passed in fertile well-draining soil. Grow in full sun and provide consistent moisture. Stevia is attractive in a border or a mixed planter, where it can reach a height of 60 centimetres. Pinch out the growing tips for a bushier plant with more fresh leaves.
Stevia can be overwintered in a pot on a sunny windowsill. Avoid overwatering as that can lead to root rot.
Leaves are best harvested before flowering and can be used fresh or dried. Dried leaves are sweeter than fresh and can be ground in a blender into a powder. Leaves harvested after flowering may be less sweet, or even bitter tasting.
Disclaimer: Toronto Master Gardeners does not advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. Any information in the recommended resources should be regarded as being for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any medical or health treatment.
For more information:
Missouri Botanical Garden : https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=e489
West Coast Seeds: https://www.westcoastseeds.com/products/stevia-organic
Date prepared: December 2021
Prepared by the Toronto Master Gardeners, these Gardening Guides provide introductory information on a variety of gardening topics. Toronto Master Gardeners are part of a large, international volunteer community committed to providing the public with horticultural information, education and inspiration. Our goal is to help Toronto residents use safe, effective, proven and sustainable horticultural practices to create gardens, landscapes and communities that are both vibrant and healthy.
Statement on Invasive Plants: When choosing plants, avoid invasive plants, which can spread quickly and dominate gardens. Invasive plants are sold by nurseries, big box stores or even at community plant sales. Invasives may already be present in your garden. They can invade gardens by spreading from under a neighbour’s fence or may be transported by wildlife. For beautiful, sustainable options to invasive plants, see the Ontario Invasive Plant Council’s “Grow Me Instead – Beautiful Non-Invasive Plants for your Garden” at https://www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca/resources/grow-me-instead/before purchasing or accepting “gifts” of plants.
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