Grow stevia at home
Stevia is a perennial plant. It likes warm sun and cannot survive in freezing conditions. However, its root survive in zones 9 and warmer, and grow again in spring. If protected well, it can survive in zone 8, too.
Plant it in 12-inch containers, and make sure you use high-quality potting soil. Keep it in direct sunlight, and water whenever the surface of the soil is dry.
Soil, planting and growing care
Make sure your stevia plant has 18 inches free space. Use loose, loamy, and well-drained soil, because that is exactly what this plant likes. It grows 1-3 feet in height. Of course, this depends on the growing season. Wait for the frost to pass before you plant your stevia plant. Use compost or Bonnie Herb and Vegetable Plant Food. Follow the instructions on the label. A mulch will prevent your stevia from drying out in summer. If you plant your stevia in a pot, make sure it gets the same plant food and mulch.
Keep in mind that Stevia does not like soggy soil. Good drainage is of essential importance, otherwise the root will rot. If your plant is still wilting after being watered, its roots are probably rotten. Some insects may also be a problem.
Harvest and storage
Stevia blooms in fall, so you can trim off the flowers. In this way the plant will grow new leaves.
Stevia has small white flowers in fall. In this time of the year the plant stretches out, and does not have too many good leaves. Clip of the blooms, and the plant will release more leaves.
Stevia leaves are sweeter in autumn. The plant tastes much better before it starts blooming.
Dry your Stevia leaves, and you can use them for longer. Cut off the stems, and remove its leaves and tender stems. Scatter them on loosely woven fabric or any non-metal screening. Make sure you dry the leaves outside in the sun.
The leaves will dry out in just one day. Collect them in a container before they get damp. Food dehydrators also work well. Crush your dried Stevia leaves with your hand or use a food processor to powder them.
Store your stevia powder or crushed stevia leaves in airtight containers. The powder cannot dissolve, but it will sure sweeten your drinks and food.