Why Everyone’s Putting Pennies and Vodka in Their Flower Vases — and You Should Too

published May 17, 2023
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One of my favorite things about going to Trader Joe’s (and there are many) is buying flowers. There’s something pretty luxurious about buying fresh flowers each week — especially when they’re in season. And if you’re like me, you’re usually experimenting with ways to make them last longer

If you’re on TikTok, or more specifically PlantTok, you already know there’s a seemingly endless supply of tips for any conceivable issue of the plant variety. One piece of advice in particular involves using ice, a penny from before the 1980s, and a shot of vodka as a way to prolong the life of your tulips. 

@liz_ird happy tulip season, here’s how to get the most out of your tulips! #tulips #tulipcare #traderjoestulips #flowertips #flowercaretips #tulipseason ♬ Pink Champagne – Abby Roberts

The full rundown of the viral advice, from TikTok user @liz_ird, is as follows:

  • Choose tulips that haven’t opened yet. 
  • Trim the stems at a diagonal, then trim all of the leaves off.
  • Put a penny from before 1980 in the vase water. 
  • Put the flowers in cold water, add an ice cube. 
  • Add a shot of vodka. 
Credit: Erin Derby

While money and alcohol also make me happy, I consulted a local florist on whether or not the chilled penny-vodka cocktail would do anything for your tulips. 

According to Mary Peacock, a florist at Mahoney’s Garden Center, the advice to choose tulips that haven’t yet opened is sound. As for cutting, you won’t hurt the tulips cutting them at an angle, but it won’t necessarily benefit them either. “You don’t really do that with tulips because they’re too soft, unless it’s going in an Oasis [a kind of floral foam]. Everyone seems to cut everything at an angle,” she says. 

As for the penny, Peacock has heard this advice before but has never tried it herself. However, she says people swear by it — including other florists.

So why does the penny need to be from before 1980? Starting in 1909, pennies were made of 95 percent copper, but by the 1980s copper was growing expensive. Instead, the U.S. Mint started making pennies out of copper-plated zinc, which means pennies made after 1982 are only 2.5 percent copper, according to the Parris Island Museum

But what does the copper do for your tulips? Copper is a fungicide, so it naturally kills bacteria that can often sneak into your flower vase, which tends to shorten your lovely tulips’ lifespan. As for the cold water and ice-cube tip, that tracks with Apartment Therapy’s own tulip preserving test, which found that popping the vase in the fridge overnight does wonders for keeping the bouquet fresh longer.

Believe it or not, the advice to include a vodka shot also has some merit — it functions as a preservative. In the video, the creator mentions the vodka helps the tulips stand up straight, but it’s more so that the vodka may slow the wilting rather than causing the flowers to stand straighter than they would naturally. Per Scientific American, when you add vodka to the vase it can inhibit ethylene production, which is a ripening gas plants emit that help them mature. If you try it out, just make sure to dilute the shot of Tito’s in a big vase of water (straight 40 percent alcohol is too strong for plants, understandably).

So the next time you’re headed out the door to pick up a gorgeous bouquet of Friday Flowers from the grocery store, make sure to check your bar cart for some vodka, freeze some water for ice cubes, and start checking the date on your pennies.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Everyone’s Putting Vodka in Their Flower Vases — We Had a Florist Weigh In