Growing herbs is a favorite pastime for gardeners and chefs alike. While it's nice to have an herb garden growing just in reach of the kitchen to spice up meals, there may be an herb that is missing from your plantings. If you want to try to grow something a little sweeter, stevia may be just what you need. Used fresh or dried and ground into a powder, stevia can grow as an annual in cold winter climates or as a perennial in zone 8 and higher.
Prepare the bed area where you want to grow your stevia in full sun, with well draining soil in spring after the soil temperature has risen between 60 to 65 degrees or higher. If possible, stevia prefers the warmth of a raise bed, but you can grow it at the surface level. Add three to four inches of organic compost over the bed and work it in with the soil up to 8 inches deep.
Separate the stevia plant from the pot it is in by gently working the pot away from the root ball. Dig a hole in your soil twice the size of your pot, set the stevia plant in the center of the hole, and fill in around it with compost. If planting more than one plant, be sure to space them out 10 to 12 inches apart.
Firm up the soil around your plants and add a little extra on top to cover over the top of the root ball with an inch of soil. Water the plant well to wet the soil in the bed completely. You'll want to keep the bed evenly damp throughout the spring and summer but you can back off watering over the winter.
Add a 2-inch layer of bark mulch around the base of each planting to help keep out weeds and retain water in the soil. Feed with a low-nitrogen fertilizer as often as your package safely recommends from planting onward.
Pinch off the tops of your stems once they reach six inches tall to encourage branching, creating a bushier plant. Pinch the tops again of all the stems every month to keep the stems from becoming brittle and breaking off in the wind.
Harvest leaves you want to use in the morning after any dew evaporates by cutting desired stems back to only 6 inches tall. The leaves can be used right away for teas or dried and ground up finely into a powder with a coffee grinder before storing in a glass jar.