Stevia is the name of a genus of approximately 240 different species of shrubs and herbs. Stevia is part of the Asteraceae family (sunflower). It is commonly cultivated for its sweet leaves and is used as a natural sweetener and sugar substitute. It originates in tropical and subtropical areas of South America.
Stevia thrives in subtropical climates. It requires full sun, rich gardening soil, humidity, partial shade, abundant water and high temperatures. It is beneficial to sow stevia seeds during the summer, or at least inside of a warm greenhouse. They should be pressed into the soil lightly, but not completely covered by it (that could result in it not germinating). They require sunlight for germination.
Stevia works well with well-drained, light-textured soil. Organic matter should be blended into the soil. It's best to keep the soil moist, but not wet. In sunny and hot areas stevia will work well in semi-shade.
To propagate stevia, sow seeds in spring. The seedlings must be planted out when there is no chance for frost occurring again. It is best to harvest the leaves right before flowering. Stevia can also be cultivated from cuttings (it is advised to take the cuttings towards the end of winter).
Land should be thoroughly prepared before stevia cultivation begins. It should be first plowed with the use of a disc plow. Plowing must be done between one and two times after the harrowing takes place.
When growing stevia on a large-scale basis, it can be grown in either sandy loam or well-drained soil. The appropriate pH range is between 6.5 and 7.5. Soils with high salinity should be avoided. A good planting density for stevia is about 30,000 plants per acre.