Stevia – Sweetener from Leaves

Q: I need some information about a plant called Stevia. It’s leaves are a natural sweetener and I want to try to grow it.

A: The plant you are referring to is Stevia rebaudiana, sometimes called “Honeyleaf”.

It is a member of the verbena family and is grown widely in South America and China. An extract of the leaves and seeds, stevioside, is used in those countries as a food sweetener. Stevia products can be found in health food stores but they are sold as nutritional supplements, not sweeteners, due to FDA regulations.

The shrub prefers mountainous regions and is reputed to be temperamental to grow. If you want to try, Logee’s Greenhouses (860-774-9932) and Richters Herbs (905 640 6677) sell the plants by mail.