Good Night, Sweet (stevia) Prince

Good night, sweet prince”  (Forgive me, I love Shakespeare.)

What I am referring to is the death of my stevia plant.  I killed him.  On purpose.

how to grow stevia

He was a beautiful plant, except where I kept cannibalizing him!  😀

Why?  Because for it to survive, he must live inside my house, as he did last winter, and that’s not going to happen this year.  Why?  Well, for one reason, we are in the early stages of selling our home in the valley so we can move up to our future homestead and build our new house. (It’s about time!!) The garden where the stevia was planted (before I potted it up last winter) has long since been turned back into lawn – which according to our real estate agent is what most potential buyers want to see. So, my poor sweet prince has had to live in his pot on my front porch. 🙁

But more importantly, I don’t want to have the stevia in the house because last winter he became infested with an itty bitty critter called scale.  I’m not sure where the scale came from, and though I think I finally got rid of that pesky pest, but I don’t want to chance infecting my other house plants, either here or up on our future homestead.

Salad in the window

Here is my sweet prince in my windowsill last winter. The plant thrived and even bloomed in that south facing, warm window!

He served me well.  Very well. ” And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”

Well, don’t be silly.  I know plants don’t go to heaven.  But I will tell you, this plant was heavenly!  Next spring I hope to start at least four stevia plants, and I will use what I have learned about growing this plant so my future sweet leaf plants thrive as well as, or even better!  What did I learn?

First – they like water, but don’t like wet feet.  In other words, keep their soil moist but not wet.

Second – they love sunshine – sort of.  When my stevia seedlings were first planted in the spring, they actually did quite well.  That is until the zucchini horned in on their space and shut out their direct sunlight!  Once I pulled out the zucchini (it got squash mosaic virus), the stevia started growing like wildfire!  Well, not really like wildfire, but certainly faster than it did when it was partially shaded by the big bad zucchini! Of course, that was in the spring.  Once the hot days of summer set in, the stevia seemed to suffer a bit in the strong sunlight!  I think they would have done better with a bit more afternoon shade.  Lessons learned.

One of two stevia seedlings in the garden.  Can you see how that squash leaf is starting to encroach in the stevia's sunlight?

One of two stevia seedlings in the garden. Can you see how that squash leaf is starting to encroach in the stevia’s sunlight?

Third – humans aren’t the only critters who like the stevia leaves.  I don’t know if bugs can taste sweetness (I am sure they can’t), but it seemed like every aphid, white fly and eventually scale wanted to munch on my stevia.  The white fly and aphids were easy enough to control with a spray made of water and just a drop of olive oil steeped in rosemary.  The scale seemed a bit more resistant.  I discovered, however, if I examined the plant every day and scraped off each scale as I found it, then continued to spray on my organic pest concoction, the scale was at least controlled (I haven’t seen an adult scale in about three months now) or completely eradicated!

Since I knew I wasn’t taking the stevia with me up to the future homestead and I couldn’t bring her into the house, I decided to harvest the last of her sweet leaves.  The simplest way to preserve the leaves is to just dry them in open air out of direct sunlight.  They dry to crunchy status within a day or two.  Store them in a jar or some other air-tight container and they can be used for at least a year.

how to grow stevia and what to do with it

Air drying stevia. It only takes a few days – then store in an airtight container.

How to I use my dried stevia leaves?  I drop some crushed leaves into my herbal teas. The heat from the water produces a lovely, natural sweetness.  Or, soak in very warm water for about 15-30 minutes (until soft and pliable and cooled off), crushing leaves against the side of the container every 5 minutes or so, then strain water into a pitcher of a cool beverage that you want to sweeten.  Lemon balm and stevia is refreshing on a hot summer day!

I have also made a tincture with stevia, which works great.  See this post HERE.

how to grow and use stevia

Store stevia syrup and/or tincture in dark glass bottles in a cool dark place.

As I throw the stevia carcass on the compost pile, I can only dream of next year’s crop.  I hope to be able to keep the new plants in the ground year-round, but we’ll see if that’s possible on the future homestead.  Being a semi-tropical plant, stevia does not like frost, and freezing temperatures are a death sentence.  However, with careful tenting and heavy mulching, I am hopeful.

how to grow and use stevia

Stevia flowers are beautiful and the plant usually blooms in the fall (November in my area). However, the blossoms can make your stevia leaves a bit bitter, so harvest as soon as you see the first blossom…      In other words, do as I say, not as I do!  😉

Do you have a stevia plant?  If you do, do you leave it in the ground for the winter or pot it up and bring it inside?  Also, do you have any special recipes you use your stevia in? If you do, please  share your recipe in the comments below, or add your post url containing the recipe!

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17 thoughts on “Good Night, Sweet (stevia) Prince

    • Yes, Lara, you should plant some stevia next spring. It has been a wonderful plant, and I’m sad to see it go, but it is what it is. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Good morning! Stevia would be a great sweetener for some of your medicinal teas and tinctures! When I first planted the seeds, I wasn’t sure I would get anything to grow because I had heard they were hard to germinate. Two of the three seeds I planted germinated, however, and grew into nice sized plants! It was too bad that I had to keep them in pots this past year, I would rather have had them in the ground, but they didn’t seem to mind and thrived anyway. Most people treat these plants as annuals anyway.

  1. Great post and TY for sharing this. I bought seeds but didn’t plant them last spring. I asked several other gardener’s in my area if they had tried them but no one had so I was reluctant. I’ll give it a shot next spring!

    • It never hurts to try! Even if you only get one seed to germinate, it will grow into a fairly large 2 to 3 foot high plant, which will give you a good amount of sweet leaves. The plant is pretty, also! If you are going to keep your stevia in a pot, you can bring it indoors for the winter. If yours goes through a bloom cycle like mine did, you might get some seeds from it! Just don’t harvest the leaves after it has started blooming because the leaves will be a bit bitter. A few blooms are okay, just not an all out bouquet! Otherwise, whenever you want to sweeten something, pluck a few leaves off and enjoy!

    • Thank you for the article, Uwe. From the ones I have read, stevia is safe as long as it isn’t processed like the commercial stevia is. Commercially prepared stevia has all sorts of chemicals used to extract the sweetness from the leaves, and some of these chemicals may alter the structure of the stevia plant itself. That is not healthy or safe. I would be interested to know if anyone else has found research saying that pure stevia from a plant is not healthy.

  2. i bought seeds last year but didn’t get them in the ground – I wasn’t 100% what do do with the plants but with your info here, I am more confident so will give them a try next year. You have such high energy, I love reading about what you have going on out there!

    • Yes – you will enjoy the stevia plant! It is so cool to just go out to your garden, pluck a leaf, squash it between your fingers a few times and then drop it in your hot tea or coffee! I won’t say it tastes exactly like sugar, but it does sweeten. Germinate your seeds indoors a month or so before your usual last frost to get a jump on your spring gardening!

    • Thanks, Jendi. There is no guarantee the plants will grow on our new homestead because it’s a bit colder up there than here in my valley home, but we’ll see! Thanks for the good wishes!

  3. May it rest in peace. lol! Looks like you will get lots of rewards out of the leaves that you dried. I’ve never used Stevia, but a friend used it to sweeten her pickled beets and they tasted delicious. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

  4. I’ve grown stevia and I can tell you that it needs to be contained!!! If you don’t watch out it will s-p-r-e-a-d EVERYWHERE!! I had some near my veggie garden and I was so happy, until it flowered and went to seed. Once I saw how many plants were all over my back yard, I yanked them all out, but,…. I still have stevia popping up five years later!! So yes, grow it in a pot and keep it there and all will be well 🙂

    • Oh – I didn’t know! Five years later? That’s one persistent little plant! Thanks for the warning, Nan. I guess in hindsight it was the best thing for the plant to be in the pot. I have heard, however, that stevia is like basil in that you shouldn’t let it bloom, because blooming actually takes sweetness out of the plant. Have a great day, Nan!

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