The natives of South America already used the stevia plant to sweeten their food and drinks. However, it was not until 1899 that the herbaceous perennial with the botanical name Stevia rebaudiana was scientifically described and gradually became known in Europe, also under the name sweet herb or honey herb. The stevia plant is a true miracle of nature, because the sweet ingredients of its leaves are – depending on the processing – up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, have no calories and even prevent tooth decay. In view of these advantages, it is hardly surprising that Stevia rebaudiana has also found its way into private gardens. Since the perennial is not winter hardy, it is cultivated outdoors as an annual plant. Who she in the flower pot on the windowsill,


Of the 234 species of the plant genus Stevia, only Stevia rebaudiana is able to produce the natural sweetener, also known as stevioside.

When it comes to cultivation, gardening enthusiasts have the choice of purchasing the young plants offered in specialist shops or of growing the sweet herbs themselves from seeds. The following care instructions should be heeded:

  • Sunny, warm and sheltered location.
  • Pot size maximum 30 cm with drainage.
  • Humous, well drained substrate.
  • Stretch the substrate with pumice or sand.
  • Water moderately but regularly.
  • Short-term drought does not harm the stevia plant
  • Avoid the formation of waterlogging.
  • Apply some herbal fertilizer every now and then.
  • Snap off shoot tips for more branched growth.

These care tips also apply outdoors, although the sweet herbs usually thrive more abundantly in the bed than in the pot. The planting distance is 30 cm to 50 cm. However, the warmth-loving plant has no chance of surviving even a single frosty night. Therefore, the majority of hobby gardeners tend to keep sweet cabbage in a pot.


In its natural, subtropical environment, Stevia rebaudiana can be used for 5 to 6 years. In the local regions this does not succeed in the field; Anyone who follows the following recommendations for overwintering still has the best chance of enjoying the perennial for several years.

In the pot you can put the stevia plant on the balcony or terrace after the ice saints, because its white inflorescences look extremely decorative during the summer. When winter approaches, the plant is cut back to 5 cm and moved to a frost-free room where the temperature does not drop below 2 ° Celsius. During the break, stevia only needs enough water to prevent the rhizome from drying out. Since it also requires little light, a basement room is also suitable as winter quarters. From March onwards, the experienced hobby gardener will bring them back into the light and place them next to a bright window that is not exposed to direct sunlight. Then the water dose is increased a little and some fertilizer is given at the same time, because the Stevia rebaudiana begins,

However, this winter break is not mandatory. Anyone who has a sunny winter garden or a heated greenhouse with an average temperature of 18 ° Celsius has a green plant, even during the cold season, whose sweet leaves can be harvested. It should be noted, however, that the stevia plant is then much more susceptible to pests and diseases. In addition, if it does not receive a sufficient amount of light, it begins to deteriorate immediately.

Harvest and processing

The leaves of the honey herb can be harvested from September. The older leaves are plucked first because they have the highest stevioside content. With regard to the utilization of the leaves, there are different approaches to choose from:

Process fresh leaves

Since they can withstand temperatures of up to 200 ° Celsius, the freshly harvested leaves of the stevia plant are often used to sweeten hot beverages, such as tea or coffee. Due to the high concentration of the natural sweetener in the plant, the dosage is a bit tricky. Therefore, your own experiments and tastings are indispensable. As a rule of thumb, 5 to 6 sweet cabbage leaves are enough for a pot of tea to achieve a pleasant aroma. Finely chopped up, they sweeten puddings, salads and fruit sauces.

Dried leaves

Most hobby gardeners prefer this method of processing because the leaves last much longer when dried. To do this, you simply pull them onto a string with the help of a needle and hang them up in a dry, warm, sun-protected place. It takes several weeks for the plant parts to dry. However, if they are then stored in a light-protected container, they can be used for many months. Processed into powder in a mortar, they replace sugar in numerous well-known recipes. It should always be kept in mind that the powder has a much higher concentration with a significantly lower volume. Therefore, especially in the beginning there is the risk of overdosing, which instead of a sweet taste sensation,

For a better understanding: 1 teaspoon of the stevia powder corresponds to 2 cups of sugar. In the meantime, recipes that have already been extensively tested are available in abundance in a wide variety of forums.

Liquid extract

The dosage of the natural sweetener is easier if it is available in the form of a liquid extract. Garden enthusiasts can make this themselves. You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon of stevia powder or 7 grams of dried leaves
  • 3 tablespoons or 200 ml of hot water
  • 1 small bottle with pipette

The ingredients are boiled for about 2 minutes, sieved, poured into the bottle and shaken vigorously. If the mixture is kept in the refrigerator, it will last for several weeks without the addition of preservatives. The dosage is that 1 splash corresponds to the sweetness of a piece of sugar.


Anyone who has taken a liking to the sweet, calorie-free benefits of the stevia plant will want to increase their population. It is not necessary to purchase new plants from specialist shops, as propagation is not difficult. There are three best practices:

Growing from seeds

A planting bowl is filled with nutrient-poor potting soil, which ideally has been mixed with a little sand to ensure the highest possible permeability. The seeds are then distributed. Since stevia seeds are light germs, they are only pressed lightly, but not covered with the substrate. Then moisten with water from a spray bottle and cover with cling film or a glass plate. Since the ideal germination temperature is 22 ° Celsius, the seed tray is placed in a suitably warm location where the first seedlings will appear within 10 days.

In between it is poured lightly and the film is ventilated so that no mold develops. Now the pricking stick is used to separate the young plants, which are then placed in their own pots, which have a diameter of 16 cm to 18 cm. In it they can now grow in peace and develop their storage roots. Since the stevia plant appreciates a slightly humid environment, but tends to bacterial wilting with fatal results when waterlogged, it is very important that the pots have a drainage hole for excess irrigation water. To be on the safe side, you should put on a drainage made of lava granulate, perlite, expanded clay or crushed pottery shards.

Propagation with cuttings

If the sweet herb has developed strong shoots, these are excellent for propagation. A shoot about 10 cm to 15 cm long, including the leaves, is cut from the mother plant with a sharp knife. In the lower part you remove the leaves, in the upper part you cut them in half so that the cutting can put its energy into the development of the roots. The offshoot is now placed in a glass of water, where it will develop the first tender roots within a few days. It is then planted in a pot with a well-drained and nutrient-rich substrate, where a young plant will develop within a few weeks. A warm, sunny to partially shaded location sheltered from the wind is of course essential in this case as well. To force a lush and richly branched growth,


The propagation of the stevia plant with the help of sinkers is particularly useful when planting beds. Particularly long shoots are pulled down to the ground and placed there in a prepared channel. Sprinkle some more soil over it and water it lightly, then – depending on the weather – new roots will form on the sinker within a short time. If the selected shoot turns out to be too stubborn and does not hold on to the ground, resourceful hobby gardeners use tent pegs from their camping equipment and thus fix the sinker on the ground. It is important to note that the tip of the shoot looks out of the earth. As soon as the new roots appear strong enough, the sinker is cut off from the mother plant and planted in its new location.

Stevia plants exclusively ornamental plants

For centuries, the indigenous people of Paraguay and Brazil have used the leaves of the stevia plants to sweeten their tea and their dishes. Since 1954, products containing Stevia rebaudiana have been an integral part of everyday life in Japan. Even Coca Cola is sweetened there with the calorie-free and tooth-friendly sugar substitute. Only in the EU has it been possible so far to approve highly pure extracts of honey herb as an additive for food since December 2011. This is why stevia plants are only offered and sold in specialist shops as ornamental plants. It is to be expected, however, that the ‘sugar lobby’ will run out of arguments in the near future in view of the worldwide, harmless use of Stevia rebaudiana as a sweetener.

Honey herb provides the natural sweetener for carefree enjoyment. The stevia plant is not only easy to care for and delights the viewer with its wonderful, white flower umbels, but it also provides a natural sweetener that does not damage the figure or the teeth. The natives of South America have known the seductive taste of stevia leaves for centuries. In Japan, foods and drinks sweetened with stevia are an integral part of everyday life. Resourceful gardening enthusiasts in the local regions acquire the young plants and seeds as ornamental plants, then harvest and process the leaves for use in the home kitchen. Experience and a sure instinct are only required with regard to the dosage, because the sweetening effect is significantly more intense, than that of conventional sugar. It will be interesting to see how the situation on the European continent will develop on this issue, because the first headlines are already announcing a comprehensive market readiness for 2016.

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