A wise woman named Snooki once exclaimed “vodka, straight up!” when asked how she keeps herself in shape. I’m paraphrasing—her actual words were “it sucks, but no Long Islands or margaritas when you drink. It has to be straight vodka.” Still, the idea that vodka might be a contributing factor in the art of thriving resonates both with me as a person who won’t turn down a martini and as someone who occasionally buys flowers and wants to keep them alive.
To preface: I’m not actually a plant or flower person. I do not know much about them, I don't have patience for them, and I suffer from a mild case of trypophobia, so I’m particular about the composition of the horticulture that enters my home. But occasionally, I will impulse-buy an inexpensive bouquet of uniformly colored tulips, peonies (basic and proud), or branches with some colored bulbs to put on the table in my foyer, usually when I’m having people over. I don’t know if buying flowers at the deli or a fancy florist makes a difference in their life span or if I’m just bad at trimming, but whatever I picked up would die in a matter of days, sometimes as little as two.
Then, a few years ago, I heard someone at a party say she swears pouring vodka in with the water is the trick to keeping flowers alive. A low-stakes solution! I had to give it a go. Plus, on some level it made sense. If it was your one job to be on display at a party, wouldn't you need a drink? Now, I trim the ends, pull off the leaves, and pop flowers in a vase of tap water with a splash of whatever vodka I have. I’ve had flowers thrive for as many as five or six days, so I swear it works.
$79.00, The Bouqs
Until it didn’t a few weeks ago—I bought an $8 bouquet of lavender tulips from the display outside a local plant store and performed my usual ritual of boozing up the water before plunging them in the vase. A day later they were hunched over, resembling a sad cluster of green pipe-cleaners with crinkly petals all over the floor.
Did I go overboard with the vodka? Had I just gotten lucky all these years with fairly healthy greenery? Because I had some time on my hands (and was genuinely curious!), I called up Bill Miller, a professor of horticulture and the director of the Flower Bulb Research Program at Cornell University.
Miller explained that it's not completely out of the realm for me to buy into the vodka theory, but by and large, it's not an effective one. “One reason why you could imagine [this works] is because the alcohol might act to keep certain amounts of mold or bacteria growing in the vase," he said. "But the problem with that is that the amount of alcohol that you're talking about is not enough to have any measurable effect on how many microbes are going to grow."
Besides vodka, there are other plant-preserving hacks permeating the internet—vinegar, hairspray, bleach, for example—all of which Miller was skeptical of. The one that may some truth to it, though? Pouring some lemon-lime soda in your vase with water.
“7Up and Sprite are nothing but enormous amounts of sugar dissolved in acidic water," he said."And you may or may not know that soft drinks are very acidic. The pH of a soft drink, of 7Up, is probably something like 3.0, and lemon juice might be 2.0. So it's very, very acidic." Miller explained that the level of acidity does two things: It helps to cut down the microbes in the water, but the acidity will also help water flow through the cut end of the stem up to the flower. So there is some rationale for the 7Up/Sprite thing," he says.
If you’re going to test out the method, Miller advises using a 50-50 soft drink to water ratio—and it can’t be diet soda. "It has to be the sugary stuff," he says.
Bonus fact: A 2013 Chinese study also found scientific evidence that Sprite could be effective at curing a hangover thanks to its ability to break down the enzyme that causes us to feel awful after a few too many drinks, so stock up the miracle potion below.
Originally Appeared on Glamour