Potty business boom in Sabah
Published on: Sunday, April 25, 2021
By: Eskay Ong
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WHEN the whole world, including Malaysia, is engulfed by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is really not up to a hundred percent that can be said to be positive and hopeful.  

Occasionally, a few statements are thrown and bandied about but mostly they lack substance and are mainly for syok-syok sendiri only.

In times of difficulty, everyone prays for good health…. and for an abundance of money which makes sense, and which is also reminiscent, with much nostalgia, of the release of the old song ‘Money Money Money’ by the Swedish group Abba in 1976, in which it says ‘I work all night and all day to pay the bills, and still there never seems to be a single penny left…. so, I must leave, I’ll have to go to Las Vegas or Monaco, and win a fortune in a game, so life will never be the same again…’.  

Too bad it remains unknown if he did manage to hit the jackpot.  Or did he lose his trousers?  No one knows till today, nor will it ever be known at all.

Too bad too as his only recourse is through a game of chance, which is quite similar to the local jackpot joints or those one-arm jackpot machines that are plentiful all over the state.  

What is known within the local scenario is that most punters are successful only as losers, with only a very few winners of the game. Those who successfully hit the jackpot in such punting businesses is indeed very, very small in number as it comprises just a tiny little droplet in the ocean.

Despite most people losing a large chunk of their monthly pay check or pension, the plum is just too sweet and juicy to be ignored. Even octogenarians and nonagenarians are regularly seen to be queuing up and trying for a last bite, the successful chances of which is nearly zero for the ordinary gals and guys in the street.  

Fortunately, there are many wise old folks who, while playing a game or two of chances, have decided to also go for something more certain by using their fingers to work out something that is profitable and more certain.  This they do by staking out their rightful zones in their backyards or even front yards to cultivate something that is not only attractive and popular, but can also fetch a fairly good sum.

Potty craze in sabah

It is noteworthy to say that Sabah is now in the midst of a potty craze which has hit almost every corner of the state since the pandemic. 

This is a good sign indeed as to the entrepreneurial skills and enterprising mindsets of the local folks who see such an upswing in the buying, planting and selling of potted plants as a godsent from which a few extra bucks, hopefully, can be clawed out.

The visible signs are everywhere that there is a boom indeed, as potted plants can be seen wherever one goes. 

Although most of the potties are smaller sized plants, they are nevertheless very noticeable from the small warungs and gerais to the five-foot ways along shop fronts.  Even chain stores are deep into potties so as to be able to gouge out a few extra wads.  

There are many enterprising people who are in the business of foods, hardware and provisions, and ducks and chickens, among many others, but are now also in the thick of potted plants, displaying and selling plants that were formerly never associated with those trades.

It is believed that the business of potties must be so rewarding that everyone appears to be trying to elbow their way in and then dipping their fingers into the pie.  That is why the haves and have-nots are all in for the greater good of amassing more money.  And that is also why potties are widely seen within and around KK city right up to Tuaran, Penampang, Putatan, Ranau, Kundasang, and all towns further away.  

It therefore comes as no surprise that even faraway locations such as the Luanti Fish Spa and Massage are able to attract vendors of little potted plants.  These hardworking people with different mindsets that push them to, first and foremost, depend on their own selves by complementing the touristic pull of the spa with their plant business.  

Because all visitors visit the spa by car, it is therefore unavoidable that they be tempted to buy a few plants on their way home as the flower stalls are all arranged along the path to the spa.  

Such transactions represent very meaningful income to the friendly kampung folks as the plants are all from their own toil and sweat that are free of bantuan and dedak.

Types of potted plants in boom

Despite the pandemic gloom, there now comes the boom and with it, the availability of money-making opportunities for everyone.  

It is normal for the man in the street to try to squeeze a few extra bucks through the sale of potted plants, but it is also becoming more common for the well-to-dos to display a dozen or two of potties for sale in front of their shop. 

Apparently, the most common potted plants for sale that are seen everywhere are those that belong to the Coleus group of plants.  Local slang calls them ati-ati which sounds like api-api, and this rubs off on the fact that many ati-atis are fiery red in colour.  

There are hundreds of cultivars being pushed out for sale everywhere, and yet it is possible that more are on the way as a result of the quick cycle from mother plant to seed and to plant again.

Originating in South East Asia, coleus plants became popular even as far as Europe and other regions where the colourful plants were enjoyed indoors as well as outdoors during the warmer months of the year.  

The plant is a succulent perennial or semi-perennial but most are grown as annual decorative plants which can be adapted and placed either indoors or outside under direct sunlight.  It is necessary for coleus plants to enjoy bright light situations so as to be able to express their colours fully and successfully.

Physically, coleus can come in many physical forms.  Most are firm and erect in growth, hardening as the stems lengthen, but many are trailing or prostrate types, while the ramblers are also capable of providing ground cover over the soil surface.  But generally, they do not grow taller than 1.0-1.2 metres in height, above which they may easily topple over.

Coleus plants require a rich and well-drained soil that is augmented with a generous application of compost, manure or other organic matter.  As such plants are herbaceous in nature, any soil that is waterlogged for too long may cause the root system to quickly succumb which may spell the end of the useful lifespan of the plant.  Any genuine topsoil should be good enough for good cultivation but beware of manufactured or fake topsoil which may look alike but function differently.

Propagating coleus is a breeze. The most common and fastest method is to take vegetative cuttings from all parts of the mother plant and then slide them into a suitable growing medium.  

Cuttings from 7-10cm per piece is commonly used to grow new plants, but taking longer cuttings may reduce the number of cuttings available to generate new plants.  Coleus can take root rather quickly and this may range from 7-21 days which means they can be converted to little potties of size 7-10cm diameter. When the plantlets have mushroomed a little, they can then be placed in the gerai to pull in the bucks.

Another potted plant that is now widely seen and sold is also a succulent decorative plant. This belongs to the sedum group of plants that also has hundreds of members of varying sizes, colours and forms.  

The common ones seen have a spread and height of about 10 cm but there are other much larger and taller varieties too. The plants are all succulents most of which have erect, hard and firm appendages when sufficiently fed with the right nutrients and water.  

Care has to be taken when planting sedums as they do not take to too much water or being kept too wet for too long a time.  The best is to cut down on the clay component when cultivating on soil-based medium with a higher content of sand, fibre and pea-pebbles.  

In fact, there are colourful tiny pea-pebbles that can fit very beautifully into planting schemes involving sedums.  Alternatively, polystyrene beads may also be used freely with the added task of having to apply permanent dyes to the white beads.

Other popular little plants include Chlorophytum, Sansevieria, Pedilanthus Curly Pink, variegated Plectranthus, yam plants etc. These are widely cultivated ornamentals that sit perfectly well in all kinds of pots.  

As their sizes are generally smaller, they appear to be more attractive when grown in the smaller-sized pots that have more interesting designs.  Plain plastic or clay pots may do just well but they lack the oomph to pair off with lovely and interesting plants.

There are hundreds of other varieties of plants that fit well as little potties but it may take until the cows come home to complete this story.

In the meantime, serious gardening enthusiasts and those with an eye for a few quick bucks should note that the window of opportunity is now!

Although the market may take some time to be saturated with little potties, any dilly-dallying may result in the boat sailing by into the sunset.  Remember, the craze in potties does not come by every couple of years but in decades.

So, come on folks, don’t wait-lah.


With coleus or ati-ati, there are plenty of choices for everyone… hundreds of them to chose from.


Sedums – hundreds of them of all shapes, sizes and forms are available to be taken home.


A hanging pot of Curly Pink.


A young Jatropha plant in a small pot.

Sansevieria (above) and variegated mint plant (below) grown in small pots.



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