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Stevia. Anyone here grow it and know how to prune the stuff?

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Lone_Star_Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-04-08 12:46 PM
Original message
Stevia. Anyone here grow it and know how to prune the stuff?
Mine is about 18" tall now and it's still a single stem. It looks as if it's thinking of putting off side branches all up and down the stem but so far they're just leaf clusters. I'm wondering if I should snip the tip of the plant and see if that helps it to bush out a bit?

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KatyaR Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-04-08 06:04 PM
Response to Original message
1. Maybe pinch the very tops off the plant?
It's supposed to promote growth. That and give it a good shot of fertilizer.
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Lone_Star_Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-04-08 08:09 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. That's pretty much my thoughts too.
If I kill it by accident I'll be heartbroken. It's wonderful in herbal teas.
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Dover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-04-08 09:29 PM
Response to Original message
3. Here are some, "how to grow stevia" sites that might be helpful.
Have you used your plant yet?


Plant Care
In general, Stevia should be treated as a vegetable crop. When hot weather sets in, usually a month after planting, beds should be mulched 3 to 6 inches deep with organic residue such as grass clippings, chopped leaves, straw, hay, or compost. This will protect the shallow feeder roots and hold in moisture. Plant growth is slow at first, accelerating by mid summer.

A consistent moisture supply is important for Stevia. Irrigate once or twice a week, whenever rain fails to water the plants. Sandy soils require more frequent irrigation. Trickle irrigation is ideal, ensuring consistent moisture levels without wetting leaves. A simple and effective system is the black, "weeping" soaker hose made from recycled rubber. Place a soaker hose between the two rows of plants, beneath the mulch. Attach to a garden hose and turn the water on at a trickle for a couple of hours. The system can be automated with the addition of a timer.

Side-dressing is usually not necessary, but low nitrogen or organic fertilizer may be applied in the summer as plant growth begins to accelerate. Excess nitrogen causes tender growth and reduced leaf sweetness. Mr. Oddone recommends application of a 10-10-12 foliar fertilizer directly on leaves at 30 and 60 days from transplanting.

Stevia stems are prone to breakage during high winds. Mr. Langan advises pinching tips out every 3 to 4 weeks for the first month to encourage side branching, resulting in a bushier plant. Grow in a protected area if possible. Supporting the plants with a "corral" made from strings tied to stakes is another strategy.

Stevia may be affected by two lesion-producing fungal diseases, Septoria steviae and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Brandle et al., 1998). With Sclerotinia, dark brown lesions form on stems, near the soil line, followed by wilting and eventual collapse of the plant. Stevia plants are usually full grown before diseases appear. As harvest time nears, commercial growers watch plants closely and harvest the entire crop at the first sign of disease. Meticulous weed control (by hand) permits strong growth, which helps plants resist disease. Humid, wet weather and standing water favor the development of fungal diseases, making raised beds or hills a preventative measure. Additionally, avoid wetting leaves during irrigation. Stevia is usually the last plant insects will feed on, so pests are seldom a problem outdoors. Aphids, thrips, and whiteflies can cause damage in heavily infested greenhouses.

Cont'd
http://www.stevia.com/SteviaArticle.asp?ID=8077

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http://www.stevia.net/growingstevia.htm

http://www.stevianow.com/growing_stevia.htm

http://www.prairieoakpublishing.com/index.php?pr=Growin...

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And this is an herb blog/chatroom:
http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/herbs/msg051113...
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Lone_Star_Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-04-08 09:47 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Wonderful information. Thank you!
I have used it and I find one small leaf sweetens an entire pot of herbal tea perfectly for me. The large leaves make it too sweet so I break those in half.

This is what I've done wrong, "pinching tips out every 3 to 4 weeks for the first month to encourage side branching." I'll read the rest of the links you provided and then if all concur I'll begin pinching it back tomorrow. It's also good to know about not using a high nitrogen fertilizer. Sadly, I did put coffee grounds on it yesterday. I hope they didn't over dose it with nitrogen.

Thank you again. I really am enjoying using this plant fresh and wanted to have enough to dry for the winter months.
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Dover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-04-08 10:09 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. Thanks for bringing it up. I had no idea a leaf could sweeten a pot of tea!
Edited on Wed Jun-04-08 10:12 PM by Dover
I would like to try it, and may pick up a stevia plant myself.

Not quite sure what that quote means - 'tipping the plant every 3 to 4 weeks for the first month'.
They must mean every 3 -4 days.
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Lone_Star_Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-04-08 10:43 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. That was an odd statement, wasn't it?
They're a perennial and most plants have several stems. Mine was started from a cutting this spring and as such is a single stem. I took the quote to mean that you should pinch back the stems lightly in succession. I don't know if I have the intention right, but this is a learning experience for me.

So far I'd recommend getting one. They're extremely sweet and to date mines not had any problems with disease or pests. It's also been a strong grower, even if it's not branching yet. When I put it in less than 2 months ago it was only 4" tall and now it's between 18" and 2' (I'm terrible at estimating sizes so bear with me) and covered in leaves despite my constant picking of them. Every place I took a leaf off now has 4-5 more leaves sprouting from it.

I'm looking forward to mine being large enough I can experiment with using it in more things than just tea.

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