Stevia Rebaudiana is a member of the sunflower family from Central and South America. Growing to about 3 feet, it has been used there for centuries as a sweetener in things like Yerba Mate' tea (available in our store). The leaf itself is about 25 times stronger than cane sugar, and extracts can be hundreds of times stronger. The taste of stevia, which is attributed to stevioside and rebaudioside, is not exactly the same and lasts longer. Stevia is also free of calories. Today, it is widely used in Japan, and has gained attention among diabetics and those who cannot take sugar. Stevia leves can be used fresh or dried. The plant itself is also said to repel aphids and many other garden pests. Stevia seeds are known for low germination rates. Don't waste your time elsewhere. These seeds have been specifically bred to have enhanced germination. Keep refridgerated in an airtight container until use.
Seeds can be surface sown in pots indoors. Use a sandy, well-draining soil. Spray the surface of your soil to keep it moist. Then flatten it out without applying much pressure. Sow the seeds on the surface, and cover with clear plastic to seal in moisture. Keep the soil temperature about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Set your plants at a final spacing of about 1.5 feet apart in full sun. Plants will do best if grown in raised beds. Keep constantly moist without overwatering. Stevia is a frost-sensitive perennial. If left outdoors, mulching will help insulate the plant during the colder months.