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Growing a love of plants: A Succulent Day brings succulents, tropical plants to Boise

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Martha Mendoza is bringing a piece of her childhood home in Mexico to State Street. 

Near 26th Street, she’s given a former gas station a new lease on life. Behind the roll-up doors and wide windows that used to house a maintenance shop, Mendoza created a jungle. Towering shelves stacked with dozens of varieties of succulents take up the sunniest windows on the east side of the building, cacti taller than most people stand tall in the corners and planters with leaves spilling out hang from the tall white ceiling. Stepping inside feels like you’ve entered a tropical greenhouse, even when flakes of snowfall outside in February. 

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Moving around the room, Mendoza can name every plant variety crowding the corners of the room and explain its placement in the shop based on the light the plant needs. The most light-hungry plants crowd one end of the shop, while plants that thrive on indirect sunlight stock a backroom packed with colorful planters. 

This space might have started out as a completely different kind of business, but Mendoza said once she saw it in early 2021 she knew it was made for A Succulent Day, her plant and succulent shop. Since she moved to the glass-walled storefront a year ago, the shop is so busy plants fly off the shelves between shipments every other week. 

“We can stock up on all kinds of plants and if they don’t sell for a little bit it’s okay because we can care for them and they’ll have the right environment,” Mendoza, 36, said, looking at her depleted shop after a busy few days of sales. “I wouldn’t feel good having a shop without the prime environment for plants. I’m talking to people all the time about succulents and how they need bright lights and I want to show people this is how you care for them.”

An ‘organic’ path to small business ownership 

Mendoza thought her life would take a very different path. 

Over the years of living in Idaho after leaving Mexico, her mother started sharing more and more of her knowledge of plants with Mendoza and encouraging her to develop her own collection to care for. Many of the tropical plants she learned to care for and now populate her shop were some of the same varieties Mendoza recalls playing near in the yard as a child. 

While earning her degree in education at Boise State University, she thought she would become a Spanish teacher. But, by the time she was working as an advisor at the university in 2016, she started to feel a push to put her creativity to the test. She started appearing at the Wintry Market on the weekends with artfully arranged planters of different succulent varieties for sale. 

A Succulent Day sells a variety of planters, many of them sourced from other small businesses. Photo: Margaret Carmel/BoiseDev

Mendoza started teaching workshops showing interested customers how to care for the notoriously finicky desert-dwelling plants and create arrangements of their own. By 2018, this took off so much she took a leap and quit her job at the university to teach people about plants full time. Now, she puts her passion for education to work teaching people how to care for plants. 

“We have great nurseries and great places to find plants (in Boise), but we didn’t have something that was special for succulents and so many people were so excited about them, but their feedback was ‘I can’t keep them alive’,” she said. “I thought if we can focus on that and teach people more about succulents and keeping them alive we can create this relationship with the community with teaching and learning.”

A focus on plant care 

Mendoza found a small space a few blocks from her current location on State Street and opened a brick-and-mortar shop in May 2019. It wasn’t fancy, but it had windows and enough room for her to sell succulents and hold workshops with the public. What she thought would be a low-key open turned into flat-out demand within days of opening. 

“It was crazy because I thought ‘oh I am going to be here and I am just going to be reading a book and people will come in every once in a while to buy a plant,” she said. “The first weekend we were open we had a line out the door and I had to quickly start hiring a team because in six months we had outgrown that space.”

She eventually found the current location a few blocks away and the business has only boomed from there. With the larger space and more light, she introduced tropical plants, like orchids, rubber trees and other varieties to the shop for customers to peruse. Her workshops stopped for a while during COVID-19, but she found a burgeoning business of conducting succulent care classes over Zoom for tech companies looking for morale-boosting activities for employees. 

An arrangement of succulents for sale at A Succulent Day. Photo: Margaret Carmel/BoiseDev

Now, the workshops are back in person and customers can sign up to learn how to mount plants, build succulent arrangements and other care tips. And even if you don’t take a class from Mendoza or one of her employees, every plant you take home comes with a care card with watering directions and the type of light it wants to help you keep the plant on track. 

Mendoza said she also carefully vets what she stocks to ensure the most likelihood of success for her customers. 

“Let’s bring plants that are going to be easy for our customers to keep alive and are going to be beautiful so we can help people develop their green thumb,” she said. “Our mission is to help people learn about plants and decorate a space with plants so we don’t want to just sell for the sake of selling. We want to help people find the right plant for their space.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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