The Plant Native



Buttonbush flowers look like fuzzy planets or a Dr. Seuss character. And it’s a butterfly magnet. Buttonbushes are shrubs made for a wide range of sunny (or part-sunny) and wet areas. Buttonbushes are found all along the East Coast—from Maine down to Florida, and west to Texas. Do you have a sunny-ish area that annoys you with standing water? Plant a Buttonbush.

Full Sun – Part Sun
6′-8′ tall and wide
Likes wet areas
Cephalanthus occidentalis

You absolutely have to plant this bush!

Dig Deeper

Explore the history, types, and where to plant native Buttonbush

Table of Contents

What are the benefits of planting Buttonbush?

Native plants—like Buttonbush—are excellent for our gardens for four reasons:

  1. Native plants are the food and habitat that birds, butterflies, and pollinators depend on to survive
  2. Native plants let you be a lazy gardener! (All they need is rain once they are established), and…
  3. Native plants are beautiful (wander through our native plant library for proof!)
  4. Buttonbushes are perfect for rain gardens! Read on to find out more.

Where did the name Buttonbush come from?

The round flowers inspired the sweet moniker Buttonbush. These native shrubs have lots of other sweet common names that are perfect for naming your next pet, including Button Willow and Honeybells.

If you want to make sure a plant is a Buttonbush, look for its Latin name Cephalanthus occidentalis.

A Gulf Fritillary butterfly warms itself up on a Buttonbush

Perfect-shaped flowers for butterflies

The shape of the pom-pom flowers is perfect for butterflies to land on and warm themselves up. Butterflies need sunshine to help warm their bodies. This is why you’ll see butterflies sit on a plant and gently flutter their wings on a sunny day—they are cold and getting warmed up!

The flowers also help feed butterflies with their nectar. Planting a buttonbush is a win-win for having a beautiful yard while feeding butterfly communities.

Buttonbush's native range via the USDA

Where is Buttonbush native?

Buttonbush is native to more than half of the United States, from Maine to Texas, along with California and most of eastern Canada.

How to grow Buttonbush

Buttonbushes are easy to grow, come back every year, and like a range of light:

  • Buttonbush likes soil that is wet or consistently moist
  • Buttonbush likes a wide range of sunlight, from full sun to part sun
  • They are deciduous, so they will lose their leaves in the fall and winter
  • Buttonbushes are perennials, so they will come back year after year

Buttonbushes are excellent in rain gardens​

Buttonsbushes love wet places so they are perfect for rain gardens. They can also be happy alongside waterways, ponds, or even just areas that collect water. Do you have a swampy part of your yard and you’re sick of mowing in the mud? Time to save some time and money and replace that lawn with a Buttonbush.

Visit our Best Native Plants for Rain Gardens to find other water-loving ideas.

Proof that Buttonbushes are fine with water

Can I plant a Buttonbush in a drier area?

Buttonbushes can tolerate a dry spot but will require consistent moisture to thrive. If you’re looking for no-fuss native gardening, ensure that Buttonbushes are in areas that get consistent water.

Even when not in bloom, Buttonbushes look great

When not in flower, Buttonbushes have glossy leaves paired with reddish stems. They will lose the leaves in the winter, leaving their sculptural branches on full display.

Where can I get a Buttonbush?

Buttonbushes are unique native shrubs that can be challenging to find at conventional plant nurseries. Here are some ideas on where you can better find your own:


Where can I find seeds and plants?

Finding native plants can be challenging (we partly blame Marie Antoinette.) To make it easier, we’ve assembled four sourcing ideas.

Native Plant Nurseries

Our list of native nurseries makes finding one a breeze

Online Communities

Local Facebook groups are a great plant source

What are good pairings for Buttonbush?

Buttonbushes are perfectly paired with other native plants that like wetter areas, like ferns, Golden Alexander, Mountain Laurel, and Cardinal Flower.


Cardinal Flower


Golden Alexander


Mountain Laurel

A white Sweetbay Magnolia flower blooming, photographed growing on a branch of the Sweetbay Magnolia tree.

Sweetbay Magnolia


Tulip Poplar



To sum it up, buttonbushes are extremely photogenic native shrubs that thrive in moist or wet areas. They are butterfly favorites, too. Plant a Buttonbush (or a few!) and watch them return years and years of round blooms and pollinator parties. Happy planting!

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