People have come up with some crazy ideas for the garden over the years. Some of these ideas work, while others do more harm than good.
But one new trend is gaining popularity, despite sounding like a bad idea. They’re using a toy called Orbeez with their gardens and potted plants.
Let’s take some time to look at what these are, what they do, and why you might want to use them with your own plants.
Orbeez For Plants: How To Use Orbeez In Plants
Using Orbeez for your plants isn’t a new concept, but many people have never heard of it.
What Are Orbeez?
Orbeez is small, hydrophilic super absorbent polymer (or SAP for short) balls about the size of ball bearings.
When placed in water, they will slowly swell to 150% percent of their original size, with some becoming as big as 2 ¼” inches across.
The brand Orbeez was developed in 2009 by Maya Toys and soon became a big hit.
But this is only one part of the story. Believe it or not, Orbeez was adapted from an existing product.
Ron Brawler and Sharen Cohen had seen their daughter Maya playing with strange polymer orbs in a vase and saw the play potential.
These orbs were actually water beads that were invented in the 1960s to store water for plants.
Since then, they have been used for providing a safe water source for crickets and other small creatures, as well as a diaper filler in their gel form.
Are Orbeez Safe For Plants?
As you can see, Orbeez was developed from an existing product meant for plants, but are Orbeez themselves safe?
Thankfully, this product is completely safe and non-toxic.
It’s made of completely biodegradable materials, meaning you can use them in the garden without having to worry about any long-term effects.
How Do Orbeez Work?
The SAP that Orbeez is made of doesn’t simply absorb water, meaning you can cut it open and won’t find the water.
Instead, the polymer’s molecules bind with water molecules, expanding the bead as the water becomes part of the core structure.
This process is fairly slow, requiring the beads to be soaked from 4 hours to overnight to reach full size.
However, you can place them in an open container for 24 to 48 hours, and they’ll return to their original size.
This unique process allows them to capture water and slowly release it back into the soil, which can help reduce the risk of overwatering. Because they grow and shrink, they can also help reduce soil compaction.
Using Orbeez With Your Plants
There are many ways to use Orbeez. Here are some of the most popular ones.
Add To Garden Soil
This original use is intended for water beads and still works quite well.
When preparing the soil in your garden, mix in some Orbeez as you would an aggregate.
While you can add them in dry, it’s usually better to soak them first, so they’ll help your seedlings or any transplanted plants recover more quickly.
Filling them first can also give you a better idea of how much the ground will swell after watering or rain.
Aid In Transplanting Seedlings
Sometimes, we just can’t help ourselves and decide to grow cuttings in jars of water instead of soil.
This can be fun to watch, but it’s a rather big shock for the plant to go from water to soil.
Thankfully, water beads can reduce transplant shock and even serve as an intermediate medium.
Slowly add some Orbeez to your jar in layers so the jar won’t overflow and the expanding beads won’t push the plant out.
Once the beads have filled the jar, give the plant a few days to acclimate, then do your transplanting.
Be sure to add some swollen Orbeez into the new potting soil to help ensure the plant gets the right amount of water as it recovers.
Substitute For Potting Soil
Of course, you can also simply grow the plants in a container of Orbeez.
Soil-free mixes can be just as effective as a soil mix, and the water beads work surprisingly well as a planting medium.
You can either transplant seedlings or cuttings to the Orbeez-filled container or plant seeds directly into it.
When growing from seed, observe any planting instructions, treating the Orbeez as you would soil.
Note that your plants will still need fertilizer and other essentials when growing in any type of water bead, as they provide water but not nutrients.
Some Final Notes
Things have a way of coming full circle, and Orbeez is a perfect example.
Having been inspired by water beads developed for plants, Orbeez has gone from being a popular toy to an increasingly popular tool for plant lovers.
They come in a wide range of bright colors and are relatively inexpensive. As a result, it’s become a trend to grow plants directly in clear jars full of Orbeez to create a decorative statement.
Using them in the garden can serve many of the same functions as aggregates and will slowly degrade over time without any toxicity.
In other words, Orbeez is a great choice for any plant lover, and we expect to see their popularity continue to increase in the coming years.