By cutting flowers, you’re signing their death certificate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t extend the freshness of that Mother’s Day vase of blooms for just a few more days. The chemistry experts at the web series Reactions explain the science behind why flowers wilt, and offer advice for keeping them fresh.

First, clean the vase to keep bacteria from building up. Use slightly warm water and let it sit for a bit; don’t forget to use your flower food, which contains sugar, citric acid, and some kind of anti-bacterial agent. Then, before you put the flowers in the vase, cut the stems at a 45° angle under a stream of water. This opens up access to the mechanism that sucks water up the stem and distributes it to the rest of the plant. You can find more tips for keeping cut flowers fresh here.

All images via YouTube