days to maturity: 100 days
plant spacing: 1-3 plants per square foot
sunlight requirements: 6-14 hours
look out for: spider mites (causes crinkled growing tips)
harvest notes: harvest new growth tips as needed
Stevia is an herb that is gaining popularity due to a trend in low sugar and low carbohydrate eating. Stevia leaves are 300 times sweeter than sugar so they are a great substitute in baking, sweetening coffees and teas, and more. When stevia is being extracted and used in commercial food applications it is quite processed and thusly is just adding flavor however when you use fresh stevia leaf, extract, or tincture you can get the sweetening effects of the compound Rebaudioside alongside many antioxidants. If you use stevia often 3-5 plants will grow you enough leaf to dry and store a years supply, so when your annual plant dies in the spring you can continue to have preserved leaves through the summer. The main medicinal benefit of stevia is the reduction of sugar and simple sugars in the diet, however studies show that stevia can also help lower blood pressure. Stevia is susceptible to mite damage, which shows up on this plant as crinkled or shriveled looking growing tips and new leaves. Mites are a super common pest in South Florida and they are microscopic, so you have to look for the damage not the bug. They can be treated with many organic pesticides including pyganic, neem oil & spinosad.