Also known as
Sweet Leaf, Sugarleaf, Candyleaf , Suikerplant (Afr.)
This plant has no fragrance
The Stevia plant is a leafy, tender herb perennial with leaves naturally so sweet, that it is marketed as a sugar substitute (more than 100 times sweeter than sugar). This close relative to the chrysanthemum prefers a subtropical climate above 20 degrees Celsius, which makes it a wonderful species to grow in South Africa. It can last several years in favourable conditions.
Common problems with Stevia
The main pests that seem to affect Stevia are aphids, whiteflies, cutworms, moles, thrips, slugs and snails. Spray the leaves with a pungent organic spray that contains garlic, chili and rosemary to deter and control pests. Place a thick layer of crushed egg shells around your plant to deter slugs and snails.
How to harvest Stevia
Harvest young fresh leaves in mid-summer by cutting back half the plant. Harvest leaves for drying in late Summer by hanging the whole plant upside down, and stripping the leaves off when ready after a few days. Harvest seeds when heads are fluffy and before they blow away.
How to propagate Stevia
Sow very shallow in Spring.
The best method. In late Summer, make 5 to 10 cm stem cuttings with a few leaves on them; keep moist in a warm area until roots develop. Transplant seedlings in raised beds at least 20cm apart.
Special features of Stevia
Attracts useful insects
Small bees are attracted to its small flowers.
This is a small species that grows well in any pot larger than 15 cm.
This plant originates from wet areas, but it doesn't like the roots sitting in water.
Other uses of Stevia
It is said that stevia can lower the blood sugar level and lower the insulin level after a meal. Chinese use it to treat allergies, cholesterol and cancer.
The leaves can be used fresh, cooked, as a liquid extract or dried; in food and drinks. One teaspoon of dried Stevia powder is about the same as one cup of sugar, but extremely low in calories.