Grow stevia at home – indoors and outdoors

Stevia (stevia rebaudiana) is a perennial herb that is also known as sugarleaf and candyleaf. If you grow stevia at home and taste a leaf you will understand why. Stevia is said to be 300 times sweeter than sugar. And trust me, it is very sweet.

If you have read any of our how to grow from seed tutorial you know that we favor using square recyclable plastic starter pots. But stevia is a herb that will have us make an exception.

We have tried peat pellets, pots made from organic materials as well as grow bags and self made pots from newspaper. But the fact remains, stevia seeds are hard to germinate.

Or I should say that  the germination rate of the seeds is rather low. 3 successful germinations from 10 seeds is not unusual.

I have had the most success with darker colored seeds whereas the lighter tanned colored seeds have produced lower germination rates.

When you grow stevia at home you learn that is an interesting herb. The seeds are challenging to germinate and the seedlings grow slow. But when the plant is established it will grow like a weed.

So let’s have a look at the best way to grow stevia at home from seeds.

How to grow stevia from seeds

1. Select your pot and soil

Stevia seeds are challenging to germinate even if you are careful and provide ideal conditions.

We use a larger sized plastic pot allowing us to plant up to 10 seeds per pot. When buying seeds I usually get anything between 10-30 seeds per package.

I have tried several different vendors but as long as you use a reputable sourde and buy organic seeds you should be fine,

The seeds like a moist and well-drained soil. I use a 50 / 50 mixture of potting soil and a leaner cactus soil mix.

I also use Vermiculite as I do not want the seeds to dry out. 

2. Planting the seeds

Before planting the seeds we water the soil lightly to get rid of any air pockets in the soil. 

The stevia seeds are very fine and elongated and should be gently placed on the soil about 3 centimeters (1 inch) apart.

Using a larger pot will allow us to plant up to 10 seeds in one pot. It may seem excessive but we cannot rely on a 100% germination rate. 

Do not press the seeds with your fingers instead cover them with a thin layer of Vermiculite. If you do not have access to Vermiculite you can also cover them with potting soil.  Using vermiculite will help us to keep the growing environment moist.

When the seeds are planted we bottom water the seeds. Simply put the pot in a water bath for 10-15 minutes. Use room temperature water, not ice cold or hot. 

Use your finger to make sure that the water has reached the surface before removing the pot from the water bath. 

As we plant the seeds on the surface even spraying the soil may move the seeds around the pot. Bottom watering makes sure we do not disturb our seed placement.

3. First leaves and seedlings developing

Stevia seedling in pot
Stevia seedlings are delicate

The stevia seeds will take 14-24 days to germinate.

And as we have already established, stevia seeds suffer from low germination rates.

When we see the first leaves or cotyledons we continue to bottom water the pot.

The cotyledons are very delicate and using a spray bottle may push the leaves into the soil and kill the emerging seedling.

4. Transplanting stevia seedlings 

Seedlings grow slow and and we can expect to transplant into larger pots after 6-8 weeks.

I use a soil mix of equal parts of standard garden or potting soil, peat moss and sand or Perlite.

Do not plant the seedling deeper but transplant them to the same soil level as before.

We transplant each seedling into its own pot or plant outdoors after hardening if the climate and time of year allows. 

Stevia needs water and sun to thrive so ideally pick a location with at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.

5. Caring for the plant

Stevia will grow well outdoors in warmer climates. 

But stevia doesn’t do well in cold temperatures. Stevia is native to South America and does not tolerate temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit).

If you live in a hot climate the plant can grow outdoors year round. For the rest of us it is better to grow stevia in pots and bring the plant indoors as the weather gets cooler.

6. Harvesting and preserving stevia 

The stevia plant is ready to be harvested after about 40 days after transplanting. We harvest the leaves from the plant continuously throughout the season.

The leaves lose some of their flavor if we let the plant bloom.

We can also harvest and dry out the leaves to preserve the herp. You can use a dehydrator, your oven or simply tie some stems together and hang them in a light, airy and dry location without direct sunlight.

The dried leaves are easily crushed using a pestle and mortar. Do not crush them into a powder as you can always make the crumbs smaller later as needed,

If you do use your oven you place the harvested leaves on a tray and set the temperature at 40 degrees Celsius (100 degree Fahrenheit). Leave the door to the oven open. Check on the result every now and then but it is likely to take a couple of hours. 

The leaves are done when they are dry to the touch but still green. The leaves should not turn brown.

Grow stevia at home from cuttings

If you can get hold of a mature stevia plant you will find that it is easy to grow stevia from cuttings.

1. Choose the location: Stevia needs sun and we pick a spot with a least 6 hours of cun per day.

2. Prepare the soil: I use a mix of standard garden or potting soil, peat moss and sand or Perlite. But any well drained soil will do. 

3. The cuttings: Cut well established stems that are at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) long. Cut the stems just above a pair of leaves. Now cut off all leaves on the stem leaving only the top crown, usually 4 – 6 leaves. 

4. Plant the cuttings in your pot: Now plant the cuttings by lowering about 5 centimeters (2 inches) of the cutting in the soil. 

5. Water the cuttings: The stevia cuttings needs a moist but not wet soil to develop a healthy root system.

6. Transplant: When the cuttings are established it is time to transplant the cuttings to a larger pot or your herb garden. 

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants, and garden vegetables. For the past two years, he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.