How to grow Stevia at home
Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is a plant of tropical origin that, if grown in our Mediterranean climates, stops growing during the autumn and winter. It is a multi-year plant (4 or 5 years) that sprouts in spring until about the middle of August. Reproduction is exclusively by cuttings. Also do not plant the buds that have already flowered, since they will never put roots and these flowers do not give seeds that can sprout. If you grow it at home you need a fairly large pot, not bloomed buds of at least 10 cm. The soil is good that consists of a mixture of peat blond, dark peat and organic substance (40% – 30% – 30%), to which an inert element (eg perlite) is added to allow a good drainage of the root system. Before putting the cuttings moisten the soil well and give time to drain thoroughly for half a day. The cutting (which should not be planted after too much time from its withdrawal) must obviously be cleaned of the basal leaves and once planted must make sure to compact (not excessively) the earth.
In the initial phase the vase will have to stay in shaded area and take care to water the plant in the morning, in the early afternoon and in the evening. If you have done everything correctly you will find that after a month or so the sprig will take turgor, will emit the first leaves and at this point you can place the pot gradually in the sunniest area.
Once grown, in the summer, the plant should be watered every day (also ensuring the humidity of the vase); at the end of the vegetative cycle and, especially during the winter, it should be watered only if necessary, since an excess of humidity causes the roots to rot.
When, instead, during the autumn period, if you notice that the plant fills with flowers and stops growing, it means that it is time to prune it, cutting it until you get a plant about 10 cm high.
The plant reaches a height of about half a meter, has very small hermaphroditic flowers, numerous, whitish, pollinated by insects.
The stevia leaves contain a natural sweetener that has, among the basic properties, the absence of calories, compared to a sweetening power greater than that of sugar and mass sweeteners such as aspartame.
To dry the leaves you have collected, try not to make them hit directly by the sun, so that they do not lose their properties; in this way you can dry them inside the house, where there is a more suitable temperature.