Great Balls Of…. Green?

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Marimo balls are the “pocket pets” of the plant world.

Also known as Moss Balls or Lake Balls, these cute, fuzzy little green balls could fall in the category of novelty plants.

They are perfect for low-light rooms, an office desktop, or for decorating a table.  Plus, they are great attention getters from co-workers, friends, and guests.

I saw pictures of them while cruising eBay one day, and did a little research.  The more I read about them, the more fascinated I became.  (Yeah, I ended up buying them on eBay.)

As with any plant, they have their aficionados and collectors.  Certainly I could be one, if I let myself get carried away with them.

They are actually a species of algae, but don’t let that turn you off.  They look like velvet, and feel like velvet too.  They’re pretty darn cool!

Whenever I have guests, I fish one of my Marimo’s out of their jar and drop them into my visitors hand.

That visitor is always impressed.  They love the feel and they can’t believe the balls are real, live, photosynthesizing plants.

Some websites will try to tell you that algae is not a plant…  sorry guys, but Marimo’s are scientifically classed as belonging to the Plantae kingdom (Taxonomy discussions on algae become mostly semantics anyway).

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One of the coolest things about Marimo’s are the ways you can stage them.  As you can tell from the photo’s, I just keep mine in a plain, glass cookie jar… nothing fancy… but Marimo’s can be dressed up much the same as the ever popular lucky bamboo pots, with colorful glass beads, ribbons, and beautiful vases.

In addition, given a little extra room, Marimo’s have a habit of sinking and rising to the water surface, much like the wax inside a Lava Lamp does.  Take a beautiful glass container, put some glass beads in the bottom, add tap water and the Marimo’s, and you have a real conversation starter.

Marimo balls are popular additions to aquariums as well, but if you’re interested in using them in that fashion it would be a good idea to do a little research and look up how other aquarium owners use them.

As far as caring for them in a vase goes, plain tap water works just fine, with a little care:

Every 7 to 10 days take your Marimo’s out of the vase and rinse them off in clean tap water, squeezing them just a tiny bit to remove any impurities.  Wash out the vase and fill it with new tap water (room temp), then put the Marimo’s back in.  That’s it!

If you want to start new Marimo’s you can tease a little bit off one of the balls and put that in the vase alongside the others.  The little ball will eventually grow into a big ball.

Marimo’s grow somewhat slowly.  I have read websites where it says it takes 7 years for a ball to grow to the size of my palm, but my experience has been that my Marimo’s grow much faster than that.  Still, they are not like my potted plants, they do increase gradually, not with leaps and bounds.

Also, if you find they are losing their nice spherical shape, it means that not all sides of your Marimo are getting enough light to photosynthesize, and is thus growing more on one side than another.  The solution is simple, just twist the vase around occasionally so the balls tumble around and are exposed to the light much more evenly.

If you see little bubbles surrounding your moss balls, this is a good thing.  It’s called pearling, and is a sign that the plants are photosynthesizing well.  It’s quite lovely to see – makes the water look like champagne.