Catalina Flower

Last updated on May 20th, 2023 at 07:24 pm

Catalina flowers are commercial hybrids of the wishbone flower (genus: Torenia, family: Linderniaceae). Catalina is a bushy, compact, and profusely blooming plant with showy blossoms. This annual plant typically has white, pink, or blue flowers. Many varieties contain prominent yellow markings. 

The trumpet-like flowers are either oval or heart-shaped, having two upper and three lower petals. The petals are partially fused. The plant is erect, branching, and moderately fast-growing. The leaves are narrow, almost oval-shaped, and in opposite places. The leaves of some Torenia varieties tend to be hairy.

Apart from the most popular name, the wishbone flower, several other common names exist for Torenia flowers. These flowers are also known as bluewings (also spelled blue wings), blue-eyed grass, clown flower, ola beauty and nani ola’a (in Hawaii), and lady’s slipper of the Brahmi family (in India). Catalina hybrids were first created around the last decade of the twentieth century.

The parent species, Torenia, is native to tropical and subtropical Asia, Africa, Madagascar, and the Americas. Over 50 species of Torenia have been reported in the literature, including 20 from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and 19 from Thailand. 

The Latin name Torenia fournieri was coined by Carl Linnaeus, an eighteenth-century Swedish botanist known as the father of modern taxonomy.

Linnaeus named the plant genus, Torenia after the eighteenth-century Swedish botanist Reverend Olaf Toren, a Swedish East India Company’s chaplain in India, Surat, and China. The epithet in the botanical name, fournieri, is given in honor of the French botanist Eugene Pierre Nicolas Fournier (1834-1884).

What does the Catalina flower symbolize?

The primary symbolic meaning of the Catalina flower is ‘Make a wish.’ This is an obvious reference to the wishbone-like form of the flower stamens. The furcula—a fork-shaped bone found in birds—has been a symbol of luck since Ancient Rome. People would break the wishbone, and whoever got the longer piece of it expected good fortune or a wish to come true. The wishbone flower is a floral equivalent of this symbol of good luck and wishes fulfilled.

Catalina is a trumpet-shaped flower; its petals are often compared to wings. These two notable features symbolically link the Catalina flower to angels. These celestial beings bring an aura of protection, hope, faith, innocence, and strength to the flower.

Catalina flowers also symbolize joy, charm, and happiness for no reason. With its striking colors and appearance, this clown flower brings laughter and a jolly spirit. Many Catalina flower hybrids contain a stripe or a pattern of yellow color. This flaw of yellow color is often referred to as a ‘yellow tongue.’ This symbolizes the spirit of radiance and positive energy.

It is said that during spring and summer, the native people of Hawaii used to ride their horses in the fields of the Hawaiian countryside. There they would gather wild ola’a beauty flowers. They would plait those flower stems into braids of ferns and place them on their traditional pāpale hats. Adorned in such a colorful way, they would return to the village and parade, allowing everyone to admire their ornaments’ beauty. Owing to this old tradition, the parent species of the Catalina flower symbolize innocent, pure, and natural beauty.

Strung together, ola’a beauty flowers have also been used in traditional lei (garlands, necklaces, wreaths) both in Hawaii and across the islands of Polynesia. Lei are typically gifted as a symbol of respect, love, and honor extended on special occasions. They are also presented as tokens of welcome or farewell.

In the tradition of the Indian spiritual master Sri Aurobindo and The Mother (Mirra Alfassa), Torenia fournieri var. aba has an important spiritual significance. The flower symbolizes Lord Krishna’s integral play. One of the major and most believed among all divinities of the Hindu pantheon, Krishna is a god of love, compassion, and protection. He is celebrated for his Leela, a form of divine joy and playful delight.

In the compilation ‘Collected Writings of the Mother,’ the Torenia flower symbolizes ‘Krishna’s play in the matter.’ This flower conveys three spiritual messages. These are: ‘Beauty, love, and joy are comrades,’ ‘A play which widens and makes you progress,’ and ‘Power of progress, veiling itself behind appearances.’

All in all, the Catalina flower symbolic meanings are:

  • happiness
  • charm
  • joy
  • affection
  • attraction
  • gracefulness
  • gentle love
  • femininity

Meaning of the Catalina flower colors

Blue/purple color 

The blue Catalina (Torenia) flower has a strong spiritual and psychological interpretation. When someone is particularly attracted to a blue or purple Torenia flower, this flower signals avoidance, fear, and a lack of openness to others; these feelings can cause a lack of clarity.

Blue Torenia helps release shyness, fear of being judged, and other emotional restrictions. This purple or blue flower releases subconscious fears, encourages open expression, and brings peace and clarity. 

Blue Catalina flowers, traditionally called bluewings, symbolize angels (blue is the color of the sky). These flowers carry the protective presence and energy of these celestial beings.

White-yellow color 

A white bloom is a universal symbol of purity, innocence, beauty, and new beginnings. Sometimes white flowers are related to the purity of the soul, death, and spirituality. White Catalina flowers embody all these qualities. They personify freshness and untainted beauty.

Since white Catalina flowers are seldom purely white (they have prominent yellow markings on the petals), they inherit some aspects of the yellow color symbolism. Yellow symbolizes the sun’s bright energy, rejuvenation power, and fertility. Therefore, these bi-color, white-yellow Catalina flowers also represent optimism, energy, creativity, and warmth.

Pink color

The pink wishbone flower symbolizes gentle love, femininity, gracefulness, sentiments, motherly care, and affection. Almost all pink flowers are commonly associated with Mother’s Day.

Interesting facts about the Catalina flowers

  • The flower owes its common name, wishbone, to the pair of stamens within each flower, which unite at the anthers and resemble the shape of a chicken wishbone. This double-stamen shape can be observed when the flower petals are gently pulled backward.
  • The Catalina flower is sometimes called a clown flower. The color combinations and patterns displayed on the petals look like a clown’s makeup.
  • Catalina flowers are also known as bluewings. This common name references the wing-shaped petals of the blue flower variety.
  • When the stamens of the Catalina flower get pollinated by the insects, they break in half. This resembles a wishbone of a Thanksgiving turkey.
  • The two-color wishbone flower (Torenia bicolor) is used in the traditional medical system of Ayurveda to treat gonorrhea and some infection of the cornea. Mixed with sandalwood, cloves, musk, and rose water, the plant is also used to treat exanthemata. This species of flower is known under the local Malayalam name kakkapoovu.
  • Some sources claim that the flowers of the Torenia fournieri variety are edible. They can be used to garnish salads, soups, and other dishes.

How to grow Catalina flowers

Catalina is a flowering plant that is commonly found in gardens. Because it is easy to grow from seeds or small cuttings, gardeners frequently plant this species in hanging baskets.

  1. Plant the Catalina in moist, loamy, acidic to neutral soil that is rich in organic matter. 
  2. Mix some compost in it before planting the flowers.
  3. Place the plant in a spot with lots of morning sunlight and full shade during the afternoon.
  4. Fertilize regularly because this process helps them grow and bloom at their best. 
  5. Provide them with water whenever the soil feels dry to the touch.
  6. Remove the unhealthy parts to prevent the spread of some discoloration or damage to the foliage.

How to care for Catalina flowers

  1. Water the Catalina when the top few layers of soil feel dry, but don’t let the soil dry out completely.
  2. Fertilized every two or three weeks during the active growing season, from spring to fall.
  3. Trim the diseased, withered leaves once a month.

Best time to gift Catalina flowers

Those with a romantic soul and creative heart can make beautiful Catalina flower arrangements in the form of a traditional lei garland or floral headband. Such a personalized gift offered to a loved one will make a strong emotional impression. Dried, pressed Catalina flowers can be kept in an old-fashioned herbarium collection as precious memorabilia.

Catalina flowers have a cheerful appearance due to their colorful and trumpet-shaped blooms. They blossom profusely and are relatively easy to maintain. These qualities can bring optimism and a positive spirit to someone feeling gloomy. Catalina flowers can be a thoughtful encouragement gift at a time of setback or disappointment.


Catalinas are charming and rather small flowers typically gifted as potted plants. They are not traditionally used as cut flowers nor contribute well to dry flower arrangements.

Catalina flowers are attractive in a quaint, old-fashioned way. They are evocative of the English cottage garden. They make a perfect gift to someone who enjoys gardening as a hobby or loves to nurture colorful window flowers. 

Catalina flowers can be gifted to friends and family members as a charming, house-warming gift.
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