Stevia is a sweet tasting plant native to South America that is used to flavor foods without adding sugar and other unhealthful components. It grows well in warmer climate zones such as the southern part of Arizona, but you must water it when the weather is hot and dry. It’s hard to start stevia seeds, so knowledgeable growers, such as the people at Stevia.net, recommend you purchase your stevia at a nursery or through an online source.
Search for a source of young stevia plants that have been started from a plant high in “stevioside,” the plant component that gives this herb its sweet flavor. Refer to Resources for an online plant source.
Plant at the Correct Time
Wait until after any spring frosts have passed--the temperature of the soil should be over 50 degrees Fahrenheit in order for young stevia plants to respond well to being transplanted into the garden. On the other hand, do not wait until Arizona summer temperatures will cook your young plant.
Soil, Row and Plant Spacing
If you plan to grow more than one stevia plant, make garden rows about 2 feet apart. Dig any type of compost into a sunny planting area to make the soil loamy and well draining. Plant each stevia plant 18 inches from its neighbors because plants will spread to 18 to 24 inches wide. Stevia also grows well in containers: use a lightweight potting soil and a 10 to 12-inch pot with a drainage hole. You can also grow stevia hydroponically.
Stevia roots can rot, causing death of the plant, if they are constantly wet. Areas that receive runoff from lawn watering, or that are soggy much of the time, are not suitable areas for growing your stevia.
Use a plant food with a low nitrogen content, for example one with an N-P-K ratio of 10-20-20. Organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion or a compost mulch also benefit stevia plants.
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