These $5 Marimo Moss Balls Are the Cutest Houseplants You Can’t Kill

Learn what marimo moss balls are, how to grow them, where to buy them and — best of all — why you need them in your life.

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March 04, 2020

During a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I stopped in some hip garden and gift shops in Seattle’s ever-trending Fremont neighborhood, and among the to-be-expected airplants, succulents and snake plants was something I’d never seen before: Marimo Moss Balls. These adorable little guys graced all the endcaps like the fuzzy little belles at the ball.

How does a moss ball become one of the “it” plants for a truly plant-loving generation (that’s you, Millenials)? And are they worth the hype? I tried them out and let me tell you, the “trying” I had to do fits the stereotype of my generation (yes, I’m Gen X), meaning this plant is a perfect pick for slackers.

Place marimo moss balls in a spot where they won't receive direct sunlight, such as on a desk or cabinet away from a window and where the lighting isn't on all day.

Photo by: Derek Trimble

Derek Trimble

What Are Marimo Moss Balls?

They’re fuzzy. They’re green. They’re cute. And they’re alive, but they don’t act like it!

A bit of a misnomer, marimo moss balls are actually not moss at all but a colony of freshwater algae. They’re native to northern Europe as well as parts of Asia and prefer cold, alkaline water and not a lot of light. They grow a tiny bit a year — we’re talking mere millimeters — and don’t require feeding.

Where to Buy Marimo Moss Balls

You can buy marimo moss balls in garden shops that specialize in indoor plants, or you can order online from hip online garden retailers like The Sill. If you love indoor plants, and even consider yourself a Plant Parent, but you don’t know The Sill — get ready to get sucked in. Anyone living in San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York can benefit from some of The Sill’s in-store events and workshops, but those of us just exploring their online shop can also benefit from their knowledge of — and passion for — houseplants.

When you order moss balls, you’ll likely receive ones around 1-2 inches in size. When I ordered this kit, I received two of slightly different sizes and they look nice together in their bowl, like parent and child.

The Marimo ‘Moss’ Ball is a fuzzy aquatic ball of filamentous green algae. It thrives without much light in a freshwater aquarium or clear container with filtered water. Our Marimo Kit includes two small marimo balls and a 6" glass bowl to house them in. This houseplant is pet friendly!
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You could also save money and order just the moss balls, then place them in a vessel you already have. Admittedly, the bowl I received as part of my kit is pretty basic, and I still had to buy pebbles to dress it up.

The marimo “moss” ball as it’s commonly known, is not actually moss at all, but a freshwater, filamentous green algal colony! First discovered in Lake Zell in Austria in the 1820s, the aquatic plant was later nicknamed “marimo” by Japanese botanist Takiya Kawakami in 1898. *Does not come with glass bowl.

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How to Grow Marimo Moss Balls

This one’s pretty simple: Place them in a bowl of water out of direct sunlight and let them be. Add some pebbles for ambience. You can use distilled water, or if you use tap water, as I have, you’ll need to change the water out every few weeks when a film develops around your bowl. Marimos can survive out of water for as much as a few days, just don’t let them dry out.

A cube or desk is a perfect spot for a moss ball hangout, provided your desk isn’t in a spot with perfect natural light (and if it is, well done). Other great spots include bookcases, dressers, side tables — basically anywhere that could use a touch of life but that isn’t within reach of pets, kids or clumsy adults who could easily knock it over.

In their natural habitat of lakes and rivers, waves gently roll the marimos and help them keep their balled shape. In your bowl, you can simulate this by gently shaking the water vessel every now and again, but it’s not a necessity.

Marimo moss balls will live for many, many years— like, 100 years. I’ve seen no evidence of distress from mine after a few months, though I hear reports of them turning a little brown if they get too much light. If that happens, just remove them from direct light.

In an Aquarium

Marimo moss balls can be used in an aquarium and can even filter the water by absorbing toxins. But some fish may nibble on your little plant pets, so if you want to ensure your marimos’ safety, it is best to keep them separate.

As I said, this plant is verified slacker-proof, easy peasy. Got no time, no light, no plans for the future? No problem, get a marimo moss ball anyway. It’s the cute, fuzzy pet that will basically just ignore you while it blisses out in a bowl, providing a perfect antidote to the crazy of your day.

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