The Violet Fern

Creating Art & Gardens


Going Native: Button Bush

Well, it’s been some time since I have posted about a native plant in my garden. I suppose I have been waiting for things to grow up a bit. If you are not a long term reader of my blog, I have purchased most of the native plants in my garden bare root through mail order. My prized Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidental is no exception. Actually a Buttonbush is one of the first natives I planted in my garden. I fell in love with its ball-sized blooms!

Buttonbush blossoms 2013

Buttonbush blossoms 2013

My garden is now covered in snow and shellacked in ice but this past summer, my Buttonbush bloomed for the first time and boy oh boy, was it worth the wait! Understand how I fell in love?

Buttonbush bloom 2013

Buttonbush bloom 2013

Buttonbush likes a moist soil (in fact I moved mine from its original planting spot – off to a slow start – to a wetter part of the garden which enticed it to bloom for me). It is a good choice native plant to grow in wet, sunny or partly shady spots in your garden. It would be right at home along a pond, lake or stream and can even grow in standing water.

I am growing mine in zone 4 but its range extends South to Florida. It has large, beautiful dark green leaves. And although the leaves themselves are enough to sell me, the flowers will blow any plant lover away! It is no wonder that this plant is considered a honey plant: a plant that furnishes nectar suitable for making honey. So, obviously it attracts and is a great resource for many nectar loving butterflies, bees and insects. I witnessed this attraction! It is also a larval host plant for the Titan Sphinx, Aellopos titan, and Hydrangea Sphinx, Darapsa versicolor moth. In fact I may have sighted a Titan Sphinx (which I generalized as a Hawk or Hummingbird Moth) in my garden last summer? (New Year note: be more observant!)

Its habit is spreading, multi-stemmed with an irregular crown but did I mention the flowers? Its bloom time is tooted to be from June through August. What delighted me was that the spectacular flowers turned into interesting balls of seed in beautiful shades of red and pink come September!


Leaves in evening light


Leaves in sunlight

Seedhead close up - wish it had better focus - but you can see the beautiful color!

Seed head close up – wish it had better focus – but you can see the beautiful color!

I noticed Bluestone Perennials is now offering a “nativar” of Buttonbush occidental¬†‘Sugar Shack’ who’s growth habit is smaller in size, 3-4 ft, vs. the true native species which can reach 8-12 ft (for those of you with space restrictions.)

No pond should be without a Buttonbush! (A moist soil will also suit a Buttonbush.)

Sources:, Prairie Moon Nursery, Bluestone Perennials,