Grow stevia for sweet returns

Hortinews continues its series of growing guidlines with a paper on how to grow Stevia. Fell free to ask questions about this in our questions area

3/May/2016 3:28:41 pm
Grow stevia for sweet returns

Kenya: A sweetener derived from the South American herb stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is taking the global market place by storm, promising a zero-calorie product that also has the appeal of being natural. The global market for stevia sweeteners has already hit  $500 million following US regulatory approval and could reach 10 billion dollars in a few years.

Stevia, which originated in Paraguay but has been used for decades in Japan and other Asian nations,  is increasingly becoming an important crop in Kenya. The leaves of this splendid plant are 30 times sweeter than sugar; with zero calories where as pure extract is 300 times sweeter than sugar.

This sweet-honey-leaf  herb is likely to become the major source of high potency sweetener for the growing natural food market, in the years to come.Stevia finds its use as a natural sweetener, replacing the chemical sweeteners and even table sugar; the sweetness in leaf is due to the presence of an intensive-sweetening agent called stevioside and the leaf by itself is about 20 to 30 times sweeter than sugar. The leaf has stevioside of 10-12% on dry weight basis.Stevia is a new promising renewable raw material for the food market. The market potential for this natural sweetener is still untapped. Although stevia is not considered an easy herb to grow, it has proved to be quite adaptable and capable of being cultivated in diverse climatic zones. The mature plant grows to 60 cm height. Use the leaves, fresh or dried, directly in hot drinks. You can use ground powder or liquid in baking or desserts.


Propagation and planting

It is best to propagate stevia plants from cuttings or tissue culture
from a plant that has proven to be successful. Growing stevia from seed normally has a very low germination percentage, sometimes only 10% this can be increased by selecting the very dark seeds and plants only those. Through this, germination should exceed 85%. However, stevia grown from seed may or may not be sweet. Avoid over watering after transplanting.


The recommended spacing is 20 cm × 20 cm. the plant requires full sun.

Soil and fertility

Light, sandy, well drained soil with a pH of 6.7 to 7.2.use a standard garden fertilizer. Do not use a lawn fertilizer or fertilizers with high nitrogen. Adding extra Boron will help keep the Stevioside level high. If soil cold be mounded up into a raised bed, this would be even better. Apply a layer of mulch, such as grass clippings, or bark mulch. This will help keep roots cool, preserve water, keep the leave clean from soil and suppress weeds.


Full sun- but not hot weather

Pests and diseases: There are no known diseases and pests in Kenya as yet.

Harvesting: Harvesting entire plant as flower buds appear. Harvest only in the morning for the highest glycoside/ sugar content, whether pinching tips or entire plants. Because it is a member of the Aster family, once flowering has begun, not a single normal leaf will be produced. Removing  flower heads is not effective. Failure to harvest plants before several flowers have opened, will allow these flowers to impart a bitter flavor to the leaves. Harvesting is done by cutting the entire plant at the base. With a rubber band, tie loose branches together and hang upside down to dry under warm, dark, drafty conditions for 2 to 4 days. Avoid using food dehydrators or open oven doors as this will tend to cause a bitter flavor. Remove any small branches and grind leaves into powder using electric coffee grinder for 25-30 seconds. Food processors are not as effective because of their slow RPMs. Dried green stevia powder will last almost indefinitely or at least until the next harvest.

Usage: Leaves can be used raw or cooked. It has a very sweet flavor.
The leaves contain ‘stevioside’, a substance that is 300 times sweeter than sucrose. Other reports say that they contain ‘estevin’ a substance that, weight for weight, is 150 times sweeter than sugar.

The dried leaves can be ground and used as a sweetener or soaked in water and the liquid used in making preserves. The powdered leaves are also added to herb teas.

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The leaves are sometimes chewed by those wishing to reduce their sugar intake. The leaves can also be cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Many who hesitate to consume artificial food additives may prefer stevia because it is all natural. Stevia is calorie free, and therefore dose not impact blood sugar levels, unlike sucrose (refined sugar). Stevia, when used in place of sugar, may also reduce the incidence of tooth decay.


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34 Comment(s)

Hi, I have read this article with much interest. Is there a steady market for stevia in Kenya and internationally to justify investing in it's cultivation? What happened to the joint Finlays/Pure Circle project?


i love hearing sweet news,and this is just it! now,where can we get the propagation material?it would def be a big solution to the ever skyrocketing sugar prices :)


Please find more information on:


we offer 5 year buy back contract for stevia cultivation. Please visit for more information. Contact info: We guarantee crystal clear dealings. We offer the best plant variety in the world.

david mwai

how can i get stevia seedlings and market


Sir/Madame, My name is Theodoros Kerasidis and I am from Greece. I have on my own a company related to cultivations. I am interested in stevia cultivation in Greece. I would like to know if there is a specific type of stevia seed suitable for northern Greek climate. I would like also to be aware of cooperating in the future with your company. Regards Theodoros Kerasidis Director of Stevia for Us (SFU) 58100 Giannnitsa, Nikolaou Vasileiadi street, 13 tel.(0030) 6978909112 email.


i am a farmer in lower chuka meru and interested in stevia cultivation, please advise on suitability, market and where to get the seedlings.


I am an horticulture professional and consultant working with a private Company in the North Rift (Kenya). Would like to understand the suitability of named herb,market dynamics,services/assistance that farmers get from you,gross margin analysis and finally terms and the criteria used in farmers' recruitment. Thanks

Githaka Karuri

Greetings, I am a farmer from Kirinyaga and would like to work on community project involving the growing of stevia. Kindly advise on markets, local and international, availability of quality seedlings, value addition possibilities,and analysis of average outcome as per input. Thank you.

Njoki Mugo

Its the 17th January 2013, is there anything current on Stevia farming. I have 26 acres of land in Embu, I have access to plenty of water via two rivers. I just got into horticultural farming recently and Stevia farming caught my eye, however everything i come across on the internet seems to be pre - 2011.


We are in partnership with an international company currently involved in procuring planting materials, training, growing and marketing of stevia. We are offering potential farmers advice on stevia farming and assured market abroad. you can email us on:

John Sawe

Am a farmer representative(MOA/NALEP) for Wareng District based in Eldoret,altitude of 2000m.Our place has black loamy soils to medium red loamy, may i Know if the steveia does well in this climate. Kindly send me the gross margin of 1 acre.Including other basic requirement for us to promote it in our region of the North Rifth. Sawe.0720-491830. Secretary-,Uasin-Gishu County forum for Agricultural Sector Development.


Dear sir/madam, Thank you very much for your informative article. Currently i am a mushroom farmer living in Kikuyu and have read the above article with much interest and greatly interested in begining cultivation of the same.Just as previous queries,is there a steady market for stevia in Kenya and internationally to justify investing in it's cultivation and links to it?where can we get the propagation material?


Hi, I have read this article with much interest. There a steady international market for organic stevia. Look for more


we looking for famers to grow on contract if u have half acre 2000 sqm with cash 100k for seedlings and irrigation kit call us 0722520083

Lewis Gitonga

I like the hortinews and being a horticulture student this article has greatly caught my eyes. my question is we as youth could there be any funding from any body (governmental or Ngo) that may help us to start such a project of growing stevia, is there a marketing body, source of cultivers and technical advice?


I need market contacts for my stevia harvest. Please advice

Joyce Njongelelo

I am a farmer in Siaya (Kenya) and interested in stevia cultivation. Can it do well in the climatic conditions in Siaya? How can I get the seedlings?


Am very interested in growing the plant. Where can I get the seedlings and at what price?


Nice information. Same comments like Chege, 'where can we get the seedlings and at what price'? And also like Murugi, advice on harvest. Thanks.


thanks for sharing the nicholas and i would like to know if Nyanza region can foster Stevia farming?


This is nice. where can i get the seedlings, what is the price.

Mwangi Maina

Can i get more info. regarding the market both local and international and statistics collected concerning price lists per Kilogram of the final product.


hi, thanks for the article, am interested in farming stevia how can i get the help i need?

Mary wanjira

Hello, Very interested but would like to have more information with land in Goliba area of Thika would it be suitable in such an area. Is there a farm one can visit to gather more information on its cultivation?

J. Gross

High quality cleaned stevia seeds "Candy" variety at


i have a farm at embu at siakago area i would like to know if stavia can grow there and where can i get the seeds.

S. Dodhia

Hey, I have been trying to get hold of stevia cuttings. Where could I get a few cuttings for growing in my back garden. Any place near Nairobi? Please get in touch.


Call 0712302733 for details on farming and buying of stevia. Buy back guarantee.

Samuel Muthama

Hi. Am interested in farming stevia. Kindly send me the info and cost of seedlings and where to get them in kenya.

jonathan k. nzioka

is there training centres in kenya or demos that can promote humanresource capacity

hi i want to start a small strawberry farm on a 50 by 100 am looking for an experienced worker am based at kantafu tala county

Hello Agama.

Thanks for your inquiry.

It would be good if you linked up with the Horticultural Crops development Program officers in Machako, through the following contacts.


P.O. Box 1329, Machakos

Tel. 044-20220

Depot Manager: Nicodemus Ngeka: 0723987769

Syphrose Wanyama 0723664703


i need the cuttings. am in eldoret kenya


a very good venture of growing stevia. I would like to venture into this business. Please advise on the source of stevia seedlings in embu or nairobi.


Hi. Like everyone else excited by this sweet news, my main question (FAQ above) is -where can I get the seedlings / contacts on phone or email? Mine are 0714644542 & Facebook

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