The green marine macroalgae of the class Ulvophyceae (Ulvophytes) are common algae distributed worldwide particularly in intertidal areas, which play a key role in aquatic ecosystems. They are potentially valuable resources for food, animal feed and fuel but can also cause massive nuisance blooms. Members of Ulvaceae, like many other seaweeds, harbour a rich diversity of epiphytic bacteria with functions related to host growth and morphological development. In the absence of appropriate bacterially derived signals, germ cells of the genus Ulva develop into ‘atypical’ colonies consisting of undifferentiated cells with abnormal cell walls. This paper examines the specificity of bacteria-induced morphogenesis in Ulva, by cross-testing bacteria isolated from several Ulva species on two Ulva species, the emerging model system Ulva mutabilis and the prominent biofouler species Ulva intestinalis. We show that pairs of bacterial strains isolated from species other than U. mutabilis and U. intestinalis can fully rescue axenic plantlets generated either from U. mutabilis or U. intestinalis gametes. This laboratory-based study demonstrates that different compositions of microbial communities with similar functional characteristics can enable complete algal morphogenesis and thus supports the ‘competitive lottery’ theory for how symbiotic bacteria drive algal development.