A sweet plant that can be used as a sweetener in some instances is the stevia plant. While stevia isn't used to add spice to meals like other herbs, it can be used fresh to make teas, or dried and ground into powder to sweeten up drinks and other dishes. If you live in zone eight or higher, then you should have no trouble trying your hand at this perennial. For gardeners in zones below eight, stevia can still be grown as an annual outdoors or planted in pots and brought inside for the winter.
Choose a full-sun area of your garden for growing stevia and be sure the area you select drains well without holding standing water for more than an hour. Dig the soil to loosen it well 8 to 10 inches deep in the bed. Spread 2 to 3 inches of compost over the soil and mix well.
Prepare a container, if needed, by filling the bottom inch with gravel, pieces of terra cotta, or pea gravel. Fill the rest of the container with potting soil, leaving room at the top for the size of your potted stevia's root ball.
Plant the stevia into the ground or container of potting soil an inch deeper than it was in its pot. Work soil in around the root ball to hold the plant in place. Avoid packing the soil too tightly in around the plant. Multiple plants should be planted about a foot away from one another.
Water the stevia well to moisten the soil evenly. Water the stevia as often as needed to maintain an even moistness around the plant over the spring and summer. Avoid overwatering the plant by checking the moisture of the soil before each watering. If the soil feels wet to the touch, then wait until the next day to water.
Spread 2 inches of bark mulch over the soil around your stevia to aid in weed control and moisture retention. Signs of new growth on the stevia will tell you when the roots have successfully grown and established the plant.
Pinch the tops of the stevia stems just after a leaf set once the stems are 6 inches tall. Doing so will divert the plant's energy to branching multiple stems rather than creating a few tall stems. Harvest as needed a few leaves at a time or cut back the entire plant to 6 inches tall.