TREES & plants


Buttonbush is great for naturalizing in wet areas and tolerates flooded areas for extended periods of time.  Its glossy green leaves and fragrant clusters of flowers in mid-summer are not its only appeal.  Native to the Chicago area and the eastern United States, buttonbush attracts more than 24 species of birds, as well as numerous species of butterflies. 

Botanical name: 
Cephalanthus occidentalis
All Common Names: 
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Landscape Uses: 
  • Windbreak
  • Specimen
  • Massing
Size Range: 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
  • Wet soil
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Season of Interest: 
  • Mid summer
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Arching
  • Irregular
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
More Information: 

Size and Form

6 to 12 feet high and 12 to 18 feet wide; upright arching to irregular form

Tree & Plant Care

Excellent for for naturalizing or wet areas; avoid dry sites.
Prune in dormant season or early spring before new growth begins

Disease, pests and problems

Sensitive to drought and deep shade. 

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5
Found primarily in wet  or lowland areas.

Attracts birds & butterflies

A nectar source, attracting butterflies such as the tiger swallowtail, painted lady, and silver-spotted skipper.
Attracts over 24 species of birds, including robin, kingbird, and towhee.  The nutlets that persist through winter are appealing to the birds.

Bark color and texture 

Gray and somewhat peeling, develops furrows with age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Whorled to opposite, leaves glossy green up to 4 inches long and 2 inches wide; entire marging; green in summer, turning to yellow in fall.
This plant has late emerging leaves.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small 1 inch round ball-like clusters of white flowers; clusters held on long stems.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Hard, 1 inch, ball-like fruit persist throughout winter. Reddish maturing to brown.