HOW TO GROW STE­VIA

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Self- Sufficiency - Where to get seeds Eg­mont Seeds, www.egmontseeds.co.nz Kings Seeds, www.kingsseeds.co.nz

Ste­via is a ten­der peren­nial that is na­tive to the sub­trop­i­cal re­gions of Paraguay and Brazil. In most ar­eas in New Zealand the plant will die back in win­ter, but each spring it will shoot off again. In colder ar­eas, plants will need shel­ter, or you may be best to grow them as an­nu­als.

• Ste­via is easy to start from seed. This plant likes it hot so seedlings won’t truly take off un­til around mid-sum­mer.

• Plant seeds in a rich, loamy, free-drain­ing soil in sun.

• Keep plants wa­tered – not overly so, as the roots can be ad­versely af­fected, and not so lit­tle that plants droop. A layer of com­post or mulch around plants will keep the shal­low feeder roots from dry­ing out.

• Ste­via re­sponds well to fer­tilis­ers that have more potas­sium and phos­pho­rus than ni­tro­gen – or­ganic fer­tilis­ers are ideal, as they re­lease ni­tro­gen slowly.

• Pinch off the grow­ing tips as plants grow so they branch out. If you don’t, they will sim­ply pro­duce one stem that grows straight up.

• For sweet­ness, har­vest­ing is ide­ally done just be­fore flow­er­ing in au­tumn as this is when the leaves are at their sweet­est. While two or three har­vests can be made through­out the year, I pre­fer to har­vest all at once in au­tumn. Cut­tings can also be taken for next year’s crop if re­quired. For op­ti­mal growth and taste, plants should be re­placed ev­ery three years.

• The leaves can be dried and stored, or pack­aged and sold.

• Fresh leaves can be har­vested through­out the sea­son.

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