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C&S Industry in Malaysia

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The Industry

First, allow me to explain how the C&S industry in Malaysia works. Hobby industries in Malaysia take advantage of fads. The C&S fad isn't so hot these days, but there are a number of established nurseries worth visiting. Fads help promote the hobby, but merchants who prey on consumers to make a quick buck ultimately leave a lot of disappointed potential C&S collectors in their wake. Successful merchants are usually those who are knowlegable, and with a sincere desire to cultivate long-term customers.

Specialist Nurseries

Specialist nurseries import young plants from wholesalers in The Netherlands, Thailand, Taiwan or Japan. These seedlings or young plants are sent to Sungai Buloh, Selangor, where the land is cheap. The area is a cacti hot-spot, where people have taken advantage of the cheap cost of land to base their operations there. It's probably sort of a staging point for plants as well. Nurseries in Cameron Highlands, the other C&S hot spot, is mainly for display, tourism and retail.

Specialist nurseries are the best place to buy plants. C&S plants are cheapest there, and usually well taken care of. If you are planning a trip which brings you to Cameron Highlands or near Sungai Buloh, do check out the nurseries.

The Average Nursery

The average plant nursery gets stock of plants from these places. These nurseries don't really take care of their C&S plants; they hope to sell them quickly before the plants deteriorate too much. Be observant when you browse for C&S plants in a nursery -- look at how the plants are treated.

The best time to buy from a nursery is when a new shipment arrives. Stocks frequently come from specialist nurseries, which deals with C&S wholesale, so that's another reason why you should by from the specialists. Non-specialists usually sell the smallest selections for RM10 for 3, while specialists sell the equivalent for RM10 for 6.


There are probably two types of retailers: the retailer who owns a nursery and the retailer who acts like a merchant, a buyer and seller. Merchants come and go, they very much depend on the intensity of the fad. Check if their stock is fresh. See if they are knowledgeable or if they maintain the plants. By all means buy healthy and new stock. I won't be able to give you any address for these retailers, though, as they come and go frequently. A good place to look for plants is during the weekly night market (pasar malam) which is held in almost every place in Malaysia.

Rare Plants

Though I do not buy rare plants myself (a personal policy decision), I do know some rare plants are imported. The quantity is small, and they are in demand. Therefore, if you want to get them, you will have to know the nursery owner well enough for him or her to alert you when a shipment arrives. Don't buy rare plants unless you are pretty sure they will survive in your hands!

If you wish to know more about getting rare specimens, check out Rico Tong's site. His collection of rare specimens is awesome. Me, I am an engineer, I think about economics, redundancy, mortality rates, etc. I don't regard my collection as the Louvre, but as a practical plant collection.

Buying C&S Wisely in Malaysia, A Summary

Unless you are buying plants from a reputable nursery which specializes only in selling cacti and succulents, be afraid, be very afraid. Many non-specialist nursery owners in Malaysia do not know how to properly cultivate and maintain their stock. As such, a lot of such plants are diseased. Before buying from them, make sure you know what diseased plants look like and after buying, always check the plants, including the roots, or put them under quarantine.

Be wary of plants sold in supermarkets and shopping complexes too. Many of these guys (supermarkets are among the worst offenders) are not horticulturists and they probably don't have a nursery. They are traders, plain and simple. They are not selling plants, they are selling products. Their main objective is to sell plants as fast as they can, and hope the plants don't deteriorate too much. If your plant dies, they can always sell you another one. One reason why I built this site is to help fellow collectors in Malaysia to cultivate the hobby, to get the most mileage from your plants. Merchants don't care about anything that comes after money changes hands.

One time when you can definitely choose to buy from them is when fresh stock come. At other times, watch out! Still, if you get to know a nursery you can trust, support it.

If you are observant, you will find plants with scale insects and spider mite damage in almost every nursery there is. It's a sure sign of neglect. Spider mite damage is common among nurseries who have kept the plants for a long time. Plants become dusty quickly, prompting such attacks. Root mealy bugs are also not uncommon. I suppose it is inevitable given the commercial nature of the industry and the sheer volume of shipments.

It is better to get plants from specialist nurseries. You will still have to beware of pests and disease, though. Specialist nurseries also have a better selection of plants. Each time I buy a plant, I repot it to make sure the roots are OK.

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  Last modified: 2002-10-03  Copyright © 1997-2002.  Kein-Hong Man.  all rights reserved