Buttonbush is great shrub for naturalizing in wet areas. The glossy green leaves and fragrant, round flower clusters during mid-summer attract butterflies. 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.
"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
- Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8
- Moist, well-drained soil,
- Wet soil
- Wet sites,
- Occasional flooding,
- Alkaline soil
- Summer blossoms,
- Persistent fruit/seeds
Season of Interest:
- Mid summer,
- Late summer,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall,
- Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Tree & Plant Care
A 6 to12 feet high and 12 to18 feet wide; upright arching to irregular form. Cultivars can be smaller.
Excellent for for naturalizing or wet areas; avoid dry sites.
Best in full sun to part shade in moist to wet soils. Not tolerant of dry soil.
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
Found primarily in wet or lowland areas.
Attracts birds & butterflies
A nectar source, attracting butterflies such as the tiger swallowtail and hummingbirds.
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 leaf arrangement. Leaves are glossy green, up to 4 inches long and 2 inches wide.
Medium green in summer turning to yellow in fall.
Leaves emerge in late spring.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Small, 1-inch round ball-like clusters of white flowers held on long stems (petioles).
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
A hard, 1-inch, ball-like fruit persist throughout winter. Reddish fall color maturing to brown.
This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."
Sputnik buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis 'Bieberich'): 8 to 10 feet high shrub with rounded habit. Glossy green leaves turn yellow fall color.
Sugar Shack™ buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis 'SMCOSS'): A short form reaching 3 to 4 feet high, fruits have reddish tipped foliage and red fruit.