The flower Begonia is a massive genus containing over 1,300 types of perennials, shrubs, annuals, and climbers, broken down into seven groups. The Begonia flower meaning is one of caution and warning. But it can also be sweet and positive.
Overview of the Begonia
The hundreds of flowers in the Begonia genus fall into seven categories:
- Scandent (trailing)
The two most common groupings of Begonia flowers are tuberous and semperflorens (wax-leaf). Most of these flowers are annuals in cold climates, used for shady borders or container plants.
Begonias grow to various heights from five inches up to 10’ and widths ranging from five inches up to a foot and a half. Other names include:
- Bedding Begonia
- Cane-like Begonia
- Tuberous Begonia
- Rhizomatous Begonia
- Wax-leaf Begonia
The Begonia history traces back to the Santo Domingo islands in Central America. However, the first sightings occurred around the 1500s in Mexico. Sightings have occurred worldwide since then, in every sub-tropic climate except Australia.
The Begonia name derives from the genus Begonia, which falls under the Begoniaceae family. Its botanical name is Begonia spp.
This flower got its name in 1751, tied to French Canadian governor, and honored botanist Michael Bégon (1638 to 1710). The French botanist – Charles Plumier – who discovered the flower, chose the name to “pay back a favor,” giving this flower the meaning of caution.
Some cultivars of Begonias are native to South Africa and South America, and all are hardy to sub-tropical zones 9-11. Depending on the climate and species, Begonias can produce flowers year-round.
Begonias have unique characteristics that make them easily identifiable. The first thing of note is the unusual leaves. Many Begonia cultivars produce striking leaves but no flowers.
Yet the flowering species are heavily loved for their various forms. You can find Begonias in petal forms – single, double, rose-form, banded, rose-like, ruffled, and others.
And they grow in flower colors of white, yellow, pink, red, and orange.
Begonias are a beneficial flower commonly used in agricultural, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries. In addition, they are used as ornamentals worldwide, used indoors and outside. Finally, you can grow these plants in various ways for decor.
Begonias are also edible and used globally for medicinal needs and cooking. The flowers are used for potherb flavors in Japan, India, Myanmar, and Indonesia.
And in Northern Mexico and China, many children eat flowers as a snack. Then some rural places use the sap from the flowers to make milk curdle for cheese.
Begonias are also largely used medicinally in the West Indies. Every part of the plant is usable. It has anti-tumor properties that some herbalists use to treat cancer. And a Begonia tea can treat colds.
The leaves can make multiple concoctions and are a source of edible leafy greens. And the shoots treat upset stomachs. The tubers and roots were used for purgatives, while the sap treated toothaches and wounds.
And juice extractions from the flowers and leaves mixed with bee honey is one way to make an all-natural makeup cosmetic. You can also use this concoction to treat parasitic skin diseases, like ringworms.
The type of Begonia will determine the placement and care the plant will need. Tuberous types do best in hanging baskets and containers. For borders and flower beds, use hardy tuberous and wax-leaf variants.
Rhizomatous Begonias are suitable for containers and beds, flowering from late winter through spring. You can grow rex-cultorum species on patios, and cane-stemmed types do best in mild climates grown outside.
Most types of Begonias need organic, well-draining, moist soil. Use organic matter to amend soil that’s sandy or clay. Well-rotted manure or pine bark humus offers better water retention and aeration.
Water regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist during the growing season. Be careful not to give your plants too much water, or they’ll experience root rot. Avoid water on the leaves, adding water around the plant base instead.
Reduce the watering frequency around August for tuberous species so the plants can start to go dormant. Wax-leaf flowers are more drought-tolerant and can handle fewer waterings.
Choose a growing site that’s dappled or under partial shade. Rhizomatous and rex species will like more shade than cane-stemmed and wax-leaf types. Getting too much sun exposure can cause the foliage to burn, and too little shade can cause fewer flowers.
What Do Begonias Symbolize?
Begonias often stand for wealth and prosperity, making them a popular floral arrangement for new homeowners. Bringing Begonias into a new house can create happy memories and good fortune.
The signature shape of the Begonia flower also has symbolism, referencing the way people tend to think more with their hearts than heads. It means that emotions tend to overrule practicality or rational thoughts.
Spiritually, Begonias encourage feelings of safety, security of life, and trust after experiencing a traumatic or life-threatening experience.
Begonias are a significant component of ancient Chinese heritage. In China, Begonias are the romance flower. According to one folklore, there was a couple in love.
But one day, the man left the beautiful lady. She pined for him for years, awaiting his return. One day, a begonia grew from the ground where she continued to stand waiting.
Unlike many flower species, there are not many positive emotions associated with the Begonia meaning. Instead, the main flower meanings of Begonias include translations of beware, begone, or dark thoughts.
It can also mean a warning or word of caution. And yet, the beauty of the flower could also lend itself towards meanings of goodness and happiness with one’s self.
Red can symbolize self-discipline and a pure heart. And many Chinese folklores use red flowers to represent affection and romance.
Yellow and orange flowers can mean rarity and uniqueness. Seeing a yellow Begonia flower can encourage you to enjoy spontaneous adventures.
Pink flowers represent friendly and bright expressions and a cheerful, fancy personality.
White flowers are symbolic of tranquility, balance, and innocence. Use white begonias to bring peace to your environment.
Purple flowers can symbolize enjoying great company and friendliness. Therefore, many people use purple flowers when spending time with friends.
Check out these frequently asked questions people want to know about the Begonia flower.
Are Begonias Annuals or Perennials?
Begonias can be annual or perennial, depending on the climate and variant. However, most begonias can grow as perennials in zones 9-11.
When Should You Give Someone a Begonia?
A Begonia is a good gift when you’re trying to issue a warning for someone to watch out or be cautious. But you can also use these plants to make amends and begin a new friendship. And it could be to celebrate a struggling friend’s success.
What Is the Symbolism of a Begonia Tattoo?
Begonia tattoos are suitable for embodying genuine happiness and attracting wealth. Many people say a Begonia tattoo can help you become happy with yourself.
What Is the Cultural Significance of a Begonia?
The Begonia – specifically ‘Kimjongilia’ – is a cultural symbol in North Korea, appearing on their emblems.
And despite the bitter taste, many people eat Begonias. However, they contain high amounts of oxalic acids, which can be harmful to some people. They also have high amounts of Vitamin C.
The Begonia is a popular flower grown worldwide for its many variations and looks. A flower with two sides to tell, you can use Begonias to imply caution or beware, fix a friendship, or wish wealth and good wishes on new homeowners.