While heading to my local home improvement I noticed an unusual plant in the herb display and moved closer to investigate. It turned out to be a Stevia plant which is more well known as the primary ingredient in a new artificial sweetener Truvia. I immediately grabbed a good looking plant, I have wanted to grow one of these myself but given the high price of the seeds and it is known to have serious germination issues and normally leads to failure.
The stevia plant can grow to a height of about 30 inches and a width of 18 to 24 inches. They prefer rich, loamy soil and need frequent shallow watering to keep the roots moist but not wet. Given the requirements growing in containers is a great option (which is my current plan). Plant in a container about 10-12 inches in diameter and plant with your favorite potting mix.
The plant will normally not require side dressing of fertilizer but if your plant requires it, make sure to use a low nitrogen organic fertilizer since high nitrogen causes reduced leaf sweetness.
Once the plant matures in the fall, dry the leaves by leaving out in the sun for 12 hours or use a home dehydrator and the lowest possible temperature. The leaves then can be ground with a coffee or spice grinder and made into a fine powder which is called Green Stevia Powder. You can replace 3-4 teaspoons in place of one cup of sugar. It retains its sweetness for at least two years in storage in an airtight container.
If desired you can also make some Stevia concentrate liquid which will allow your Green Stevia Powder to stretch a little further. You can make your own by steeping 1 tablespoon of Green Stevia Powder with 4 cups (1 liter) of hot water for 5 minutes. This liquid Stevia concentrate will be good for 3 days in the refrigerator and one tablespoon of this liquid is equivalent to 1 cup of sugar.
Sure much less work to buy some of this at the store, but not nearly as much fun…