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Stevia

Stevia rebaudiana

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The Stevia plant is a leafy, tender herb perennial with leaves naturally so sweet, that it is marketed as a sugar substitute (more than 100 times sweeter than sugar). This close relative to the chrysanthemum prefers a subtropical climate above 20 degrees Celsius, which makes it a wonderful species to grow in South Africa. It can last several years in favourable conditions.

Planning

Difficulty
Easy
Flowering time
Summer
Fruiting time
Autumn

Harvesting

Harvest young fresh leaves in mid-summer by cutting back half the plant. Harvest leaves for drying in late Summer by hanging the whole plant upside down, and stripping the leaves off when ready after a few days. Harvest seeds when heads are fluffy and before they blow away.

Propagation

Seed
Sow very shallow in Spring.
Cuttings
The best method. In late Summer, make 5 to 10 cm stem cuttings with a few leaves on them; keep moist in a warm area until roots develop. Transplant seedlings in raised beds at least 20cm apart.

Special features

Attracts useful insects
Small bees are attracted to its small flowers.
Pot plant
This is a small species that grows well in any pot larger than 15 cm.
Wet sites
This plant originates from wet areas, but it doesn't like the roots sitting in water.

Geography

Origin
South America​, Paraguay and sections of Argentina and Brazil. The name Stevia rebaudiana comes from Rebaudi Ovidio, the chemist who first analyzed the content of the plant in 1900.
Natural climate
Sub-tropical

Environment

Light
Full Sun
Soil moisture
Moist
Soil type
Loam, Sand
Soil PH preference
Acid, Neutral
Frost hardiness
Tender

Uses

Medicinal
It is said that stevia can lower the blood sugar level and lower the insulin level after a meal. Chinese use it to treat allergies, cholesterol and cancer.
Edible
The leaves can be used fresh, cooked, as a liquid extract or dried; in food and drinks. One teaspoon of dried Stevia powder is about the same as one cup of sugar, but extremely low in calories.

Personality

Family
Asteraceae
Flower colour
White
Scent
None

Problems

The main pests that seem to affect Stevia are aphids, whiteflies, cutworms, moles, thrips, slugs and snails. Spray the leaves with a pungent organic spray that contains garlic, chili and rosemary to deter and control pests. Place a thick layer of crushed egg shells around your plant to deter slugs and snails.

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