Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Buttonbush, Honey Bells, Honeyball, Button Willow
Cephalanthus occidentalis

Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Cephalanthus (sef-uh-LAN-thus) (Info)
Species: occidentalis (ok-sih-den-TAY-liss) (Info)

Synonym:Cephalanthus occidentalis var. californicus
Synonym:Cephalanthus occidentalis var. pubescens

13 vendors have this plant for sale.

30 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden


10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)
12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)
15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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By TamiMcNally
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There are a total of 34 photos.
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6 positives
4 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Rickwebb On Sep 29, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

An interesting native plant of se Canada, New England thru Florida, west into the Great Plains, northern Mexico and spots in the Southwest US & CA. The white flower balls in July-August are fragrant and attract some pollinators. Does not have good fall color. Good plant for draining wet or moist soils.

Positive martenfisher On May 30, 2014, martenfisher from Crystal River, FL wrote:

I have found and maintained my own cultivar of this plant. Very easy to grow from cuttings just soaked in water. Sticks can also be poked into the ground in moist water edges and sticks will sprout.

If you like butterflies and bees this plant is a must have. A good companion to the button bush is turks cap hibiscus.

Neutral poisondartfrog On Mar 24, 2013, poisondartfrog from Barbourville, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

Wintersowed in late January 2013, germination in less than a month and ready to be potted on now.

Neutral tweedlemynhier On Mar 18, 2012, tweedlemynhier from Fort Wayne, IN wrote:

I ordered some seeds and planted them on Feb. 27th in a Burpee seed starting kit, it came with expanding pellets and I still see no signs the seeds are germinating. The soil is staying moist and I have it in a warm spot. I don't really know what else to do and I have more seeds left to plant, if anyone else knows a better way to get these seeds to start it would be a great help. This is one of my favorite native plants, and would love to start growing it around my pond. Thanks so much!

Positive cedar18 On Jun 29, 2008, cedar18 from Lula, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

Very interesting flower. It has finished blooming here already so it is an early summer blooomer for us. Mine are several years old in partial shade and fairly dry soil; perhaps that is why they are only 3' tall.

Positive htop On Feb 27, 2006, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Buttonbush is a native deciduous shrub or sometimes a small tree with an open, rounded habit which is found growing in moist soils in full sun to part shade. It flourishes in wet soils which includes flood conditions and shallow standing water. Typically, buttonbush inhabits swamps, lowland woods, wet open areas, thickets, upland sink-holes and/or ponds, river bottomland and stream/pond margins. It is adaptable to various soils as long as they are wet. The specimen shown in the photos I posted is growing in the Texas hill country in Blanco County in a drainage area where water accumulates.

The 3 to 6 inches long, opposite or whorled (in 3's or 4's along the stem), elliptical leaves have a pointed tip. They have entire margins and are shiny. The bark is thin and smooth on young stems and becomes fissured and scaly as it ages. Its dark reddish brown twigs are thin to moderately stout and are speckled with lighter, elongated lenticels. The twig tips usually die back. Identification includes observing the lateral buds which are small and embedded in the bark and the leaf scars which are "D"-shaped or can be almost round with a single "U"-shaped bundle scar. Normally unnecessary, pruning may be done in early spring to shape the plant. If the plant becomes a bit scraggly (usually during a drought), cut it to almost ground level in early spring preferably before the leaves bud out. Its is useful for naturalizing in woodland areas, native plant gardens, pond margins and low spots. May also be grown in shallow water at the edge of ponds or large water gardens.

The small, 5-lobed, fragrant, white, tubular flowers occur in a dense, round, 1 inch across cluster at the end of a slender 1 to 2 inch stalk. They usually appear in mid-summer and are attractive to bees and butterflies. Ball-shaped fruits which persist throughout the winter are produced and are composed of many tiny two-seeded nutlets.

Buttonbush is suitable for naturalizing in woodland areas, pond margins, shallow water at the edge of ponds, native plant gardens and areas where water stands. It is an attractive and fragrant plant that may also be grown in large water gardens.

Update: July, 2008
I observed several buttonbush plants growing on a small, almost solid limestone cliff overlooking Medina Lake in Medina County, Texas. Due to severe drought conditions, the lake front was quite a distance from the cliff. The plants were thriving despite not receiving rain for quite some time nor any supplemental water.

Positive raisedbedbob On Feb 8, 2006, raisedbedbob from Walkerton, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

American Indians chewed the inner bark for toothaches and used bark tea as a wash for eye inflations.

Neutral smiln32 On Jul 6, 2005, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This shrub is tolerant of many soil conditions. It does well in full sun to partial shade lighting. It is recommended for growing in Oklahoma.

Positive flowerman On Oct 10, 2003, flowerman from Saint Louis, MO wrote:

This shrub is loved by butterflies and will be covered by them. Plant them where you want to keep them - the shrubs cannot be dug up because they have an extra-deep trunk root system.

Neutral Terry On Aug 31, 2001, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

A native shrub that is suitable for bogs and wetland areas. The most notable feature of the plant is its unique flowers, which resemble a pincushion and are honey-scented.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Atmore, Alabama
Waverly, Alabama
Morrilton, Arkansas
Menifee, California
Bartow, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Brooker, Florida
Crystal River, Florida
Holt, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Lutz, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Sarasota, Florida
West Palm Beach, Florida
Cordele, Georgia
Lula, Georgia
Winterville, Georgia
Divernon, Illinois
Romeoville, Illinois
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Barbourville, Kentucky
Henderson, Kentucky
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
Vacherie, Louisiana
Zachary, Louisiana
Valley Lee, Maryland
Cedar Springs, Michigan
Midland, Michigan
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Raymond, Mississippi
Cole Camp, Missouri
Cross Timbers, Missouri
Lees Summit, Missouri
Saint Louis, Missouri
Lincoln, Nebraska
Neptune, New Jersey
New Bern, North Carolina
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Media, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania (2 reports)
Bluffton, South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
Conway, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Lexington, South Carolina
Aransas Pass, Texas
Arlington, Texas
Austin, Texas (2 reports)
Pipe Creek, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Victoria, Texas
Herndon, Virginia
Leesburg, Virginia
Fairmont, West Virginia
Muscoda, Wisconsin

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