Sugar stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is an herb native to South America that is gaining popularity as a natural, calorie-free sweetener. It is a tropical plant that is grown as a perennial in warm climates. In locations where winter temperatures drop below 32 degrees F, it is grown as an annual. Sugar stevia can be started from seed, but it is best to purchase young plants because stevioside levels, which are the chemicals that cause the plant to have a sweet flavor, cannot be anticipated when growing the plant from seed.
Loosen the soil in the chosen planting location to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Add a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic compost and mix with the loosened soil.
Dig a hole that is a bit larger and the same depth as the stevia's growing container. Place the roots into the hole and replace the loosened soil. Use a garden hoe to create a mound of soil around each plant.
Water until the soil is very moist, but not wet. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around the sugar stevia plant at the time of planting. Add an additional 3 inches of mulch in early summer to keep the roots from drying out. Water whenever the top layer of soil feels dry.
Fertilize with a 10-10-12 foliar fertilizer, which is fertilizer that is applied directly to the foliage, 30 days after planting. Apply the same treatment again 60 days after planting.
Pinch the stems back once during the plant's first month of growth. This will cause fuller growth and an abundance of side branches.