I know why it’s called a ‘Miracle Fruit’ — because it takes a miracle to keep it alive!

Okay, not quite. But it is, so far, the pickiest plant currently in my garden. I bought an older plant, and I’m glad I did. Older plants are more tolerant of mistakes with their growing conditions, taking longer to react (die, in other words) when things are not to their liking.

Miracle berry bush in a pot

My bush arrived lush and green, and was full of tiny blooms shortly after. They like acidic soil, so I bought some sulfur soil acidifier and put it in a pot with a lot of peat and even some unused coffee grounds (used grounds are no longer acidic).

But do you see those random yellow leaves mixed in the green? They started multiplying. And multiplying. I thought at first, it might be a normal winter shedding of leaves. But then even the green leaves began looking sickly. While still remaining primarily green, they began to develop a whitening — a spider-webbing sort of look in the middle of the leaves that made them look almost dusty.

Close-up of leaves showing damage

So I got a better pH tester instead of the ‘soil test’ kits have. The kits are nice, but the color comparisons are a bit subjective and dependent on what light you’re in, so they’re not terribly accurate, in my opinion. I was reading a neutral or slightly-acidic soil with the test kit. With my new digital tester, the soil tested at 8.5. Not only not acidic, but actually alkaline!

No wonder the miracle berry was unhappy!

And thus began the campaign to acidify the soil as quickly as possible without shocking the plant. I started with more sulfur, but that’s a slow-acting solution. So I went looking for faster acting options. Vinegar water seemed popular — one cup of vinegar in a gallon of water. And it worked, bringing the pH down to 7.0-7.5. Better, but not quite there. More fresh coffee grounds helped a little. Now I’m down to a fairly consistent 7.0.

It’s still not exactly thriving, but the bush pushed through the alkaline and managed to ripen a few berries, which absolutely thrilled me! They were very awesome to try. I could actually drink straight lemon juice and enjoy it with just one of these little berries. How cool is that?

Two half-inch red miracle berry fruits on  a branch.

At this point, a few new leaves started to peek out of the top of the plant. Nothing major or very fast-growing, but it tells me the bush is at least a little happier. But it’s not exactly exploding with health and new growth, so I look for ways to go a bit lower on the pH scale.

A little online search told me that many people use Miracle Grow’s ‘Miracid’ fertilizer, both as a soil soak and a foliar spray, so I put some on order. It came in and I spritzed the entire bush. Unfortunately, we’ve had several days of rain, so I’m afraid most of it likely washed off. I’ll try more in a few days, as I don’t want to burn the leaves if they took in more than I think they did.

It did seem to help the leaves look a little greener, but I need the soil itself more acidic and the Miracid didn’t seem to lower the soil pH much. So I looked near the canning supplies in the grocery store. Usually you can find a spice-shaker style bottle with a white powder used for acidifying jams and jellies so that they set properly. The one I found is primarily a combination of ascorbic acid and citric acid and applying it to the soil around the miracle berry has been the fastest lowering of the pH yet, bringing the acidity down to 6.5 almost immediately.

This was only yesterday and I’ll give the plant a few days to adjust before I add more, but I hold high hopes that I’m finally getting the soil where it needs to be for this poor plant. The rate of leaves yellowing has slowed to a point I could wonder if it’s natural leaf loss instead of a pH imbalance. I even found some new flowers! I think I’m winning this battle (and hoping I didn’t just jinx myself by saying so).

Miracle berry flower, Small white tubular flower with no visible petals, less than 1 centimeter long.

But the lesson to be learned is…if you’re going to try to grow plants out of their natural habitats, investing in a good pH meter is worth the money. Spending some time to get a potting mix the right pH before you get the plant to go in it would also be a good idea (who has the patience to do that, right?). But, at the least, make sure you test your soil in some fashion and confirm that it is right for your plant. We’re all used to plants who love wetter soil or who hate ‘wet feet’ or like sandy soil or more clay…but the very chemical composition of those soils is critical, too. If that’s not right, the plant will die. Slowly, perhaps…but inevitably.

And if you’re going to spend the money on tropical plants, it’s best to not kill them before your first harvest, right?

Besides, the digital meter cost less than a replacement plant.

Keep your growing happy by properly preparing!