Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants



Cephalanthus occidentalis

Full sun; wet to moderately wet moisture level; grows in a wide range of soils including sands, gravels, loam, silt, clay loam, stiff clays, peats and mucks; slightly acid to slightly alkaline pH.

5-12 feet height by 5-12 feet spread; blooms July-August; creamy white flowers; seeds are globular balls of reddish to brownish nutlets.

Growth Rate:  Medium

Maintenance:  Infrequent disease and insect problems

Propagation:  Germination code A.  Moderately easy from seed and from cuttings.

Native Region:  Statewide

Distinctive native shrub whose common name refers to the one inch balls of fragrant white flowers that grow from the branch tips, giving the shrub a tropical look.  Occurs naturally in swamps and on pond banks.  Needs a reliable source of moisture in the garden.  Transplants well.  Attracts bees and butterflies, particularly large, showy species of butterflies.


One response to “Buttonbush

  1. joystewart February 13, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    A few years ago at a master gardener class, one of the students came up to me with a wonderful story and photo regarding this plant. She said that the bees loved the flowers so much that she could pat the bees with her fingertips while the bees were eating. She had a great photo close-up of a her fingertip stroking a bee sitting on a buttonbush flower. It made me wish I had a damp place to plant buttonbush! Then sometime later I was out in my yard one spring when some of my bee-favorite flowers were in bloom. I got to thinking, “Why just Buttonbush?” So I screwed up my courage, found a bee feeding on a flower and started stroking it with my fingertip. The bee didn’t even notice and kept right on eating. Pretty fun and even more reason not to be afraid of bees in the garden!

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