Stevia is an attractive plant to grow indoors or out.

Colleen Vanderlinden

If you're trying to cut back on sugar, but still need a little sweetness in your life, you might want to consider growing stevia. The leaves of this useful herb are much sweeter than sugar, and can be used fresh, dried, or made into an infusion to add sweetness to a variety of dishes and beverages.

Growing Stevia

Stevia is native to Central and South America (although there are some varieties that are native to the American Southwest) and can be grown as an annual herb in areas where frost is common.

Stevia can be grown either in the ground or in containers. It needs full sun and grows best when it gets at least one inch of water per week. It should be trimmed back every few weeks to encourage nice, bushy growth.

Using Stevia

You can simply add a leaf or two to water if you are steeping tea, or place a leaf into a hot cup of coffee and let it sit for a while to sweeten it. But the easiest ways to use stevia are to either make a steeped stevia infusion, or to dry and grind it yourself into a powder. One teaspoon of stevia powder will be as sweet as 1/2 of a cup of sugar -- so don't over do it!

- Stevia Infusion

- Dried Stevia

- Powdered Stevia

Using stevia as a sweetener is a great, natural way to reduce calories and sugar in your diet. It's also a useful way to produce a bit more of your own food, since you won't have to buy so much cane sugar once you make the switch. Aside from all of that, stevia is a very attractive plant that is easy to grow -- definitely worth a try!