Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) Quick Facts:
Nectar plant to many butterflies including Swallowtails and Monarchs
Deciduous perennial shrub/small tree
Native to most of the US but not often found in Pacific Northwest
Hardy in USDA zones 4-10
Full sun to partial shade
White to pale pink floral balls bloom most of the summer
6-12 feet tall, with 4-8 feet spread
Reseeds and spreads from root runners
Found growing wild near ponds or streams
Butterflies on the Buttonbush
This native nectar source is loved by all things winged–Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Monarchs, Painted Ladies, Lorquin’s Admirals, and Skippers are just a few of the butterflies that love to belly up to the Buttonbush buffet. You’ll also want to look for hummingbirds and bees stopping by for a quick snack.
Featuring Fantastic Flowers
One-inch floral balls that range in color from white to pale pink waft an intensely sweet fragrance throughout the garden, and blooms can last for most of the summer–June to September.
The distinctive flowers, spheres spiked all over with prominent pistils, have been described as “pincushions” and “sputniks.” These glorious globes at last develop into clusters of rounded nutlets that are relished by birds–especially waterfowl. Mallard ducks are known to be especially fond of Buttonbush nuts.
This highly ornamental deciduous shrub or small tree (about 6-12 feet tall at maturity with a spread of 4-8 feet) sports glossy, dark green leaves that can turn yellow or streak with crimson before dropping in the winter.
How to Grow Cephalanthus occidentalis Plants
The Buttonbush likes water. Look for it growing wild near a pond or alongside a stream. It can thrive in a swamp or bog, and is a great aid in erosion control. The shrub is native to the lower 48 states, but spotty in the west and very sparse in the Pacific Northwest area.
It will thrive in a rich, peaty moist soil in full sun to part shade, but it will tolerate drier conditions if watered faithfully. Ours are in large pots that are watered every 1-2 days in the growing months. It can self-sow or spread from root runners, and fresh seeds can be planted without any special treatment. It is not considered invasive, however.
Buttonbush is hardy in zones 4-10. It appreciates a bit of light pruning in the early spring to keep growth compact and encourage prolific blooming.
Rush to Claim Your Buttonbush!
It’s a rare plant that has flowers this fragrant, long-lasting, and beautiful–and those blooms attract a bounty of butterflies! Plan a spot in your plot and order your Buttonbush today!
Stephanie Jones (verified owner) –
Wowsa! This lil gem had one main ‘trunk’ as well as two smaller sprouts alongside it. Husky, healthy with lots of leaves. Transplanted into a low puddling spot at the back of my lot and appears to have settled in happily already. Packaged well for shipment, arrived fairly quickly .
scribblerjill (verified owner) –
The Post Office let this shrub spend 18 days in the warehouse due to an error. It arrived with mostly dead leaves, but the roots were wet, so I potted it. Within days it had new leaves and even a couple new stems. I kept it in the shade until I felt it was healthy. Tonight it went into the ground. The shrub has a lovely shape, was packaged very well, and was large and healthy enough to endure an extreme situation. I am amazed and hope it continues to thrive.
Stephanie Jones (verified owner) –
One year later: Wintered over easily and well. Has doubled (at least) in height and width, with dense, healthy foliage. We had a bad early-season storm that broke off a few branch tips, but it bounced back without problems. Wonderful native plant ( bush…tree?!) that I recommend. Great experiences EVERY time ordering from Joyful Butterfly!
lsgribko (verified owner) –
I work in the nursery business and wanted to share how impressed I am with the seedling I just received. It’s at least 24″ tall with a strong leader and is extremely full and healthy. If this buttonbush doesn’t do well, it will be my fault!