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STEVIA rebaudiana

Image of Stevia rebaudiana

Jesse Saylor

Family

Asteraceae

Botanical Name

STEVIA rebaudiana

Plant Common Name

Candyleaf, Stevia, Sweetleaf

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

While Europeans and North Americans focused their needs for sweetness in honey and sugarcane, native peoples in South America were adding stevia leaves to the beverage mate for centuries. Also called sweet-herb-of-Paraguay, sweetleaf and candyleaf, stevia's foliage is filled with glycosides that lack calories and are up to 30 times sweeter than cane sugar. This frost-tender evergreen subshrub is native from the American Southwest to Paraguay. However, it is grown in gardens as a tender herbaceous perennial that is killed by severe winter cold.

Stevia leaves are medium to dark green and are long and tongue-like. The leaf margins are mildly jagged or scalloped. In mid- to late summer, the leaf-lined stems elongate to produce airy clusters of tiny white blossoms, each with five petal lobes. Insects are pollinators and lead to seed production.

Grow stevia in full to partial sun in a moist, well-drained soil that's fertile. It tolerates neither soggy ground or drought. Easily grown from seed or from rooted cuttings, hot temperatures increase the plant growth rate and the intensity of sugar produced in leaves. Consider trimming off the flower stems to encourage continual rejuvenation of leaves. Although killed back by frost, stevia will act like a herbaceous perennial in USDA zones 8 and 9. Grow it in the annual herb garden or in a container, which allows you to overwinter it indoors and harvest leaves year round. In tropical regions, cut the plant back hard twice annual to produce bushier plants with increased foliage. Use either fresh green leaves or dry, pulverized or "powdered" leaves to sweeten drinks, salads and other foods.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 7

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 13

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Herb

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    18"-32" / 45.7cm - 81.3cm

  • Width

    16"-28" / 40.6cm - 71.1cm

  • Bloom Time

    Summer, Late Summer

  • Native To

    Southwestern United States, Central America, South America, Brazil

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Dark Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bedding Plant, Container, Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Houseplant, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes