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
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Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


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:

Unknown - Tell us

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


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)

Belton, Texas

Pipe Creek, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Victoria, Texas

Herndon, Virginia

Leesburg, Virginia

Fairmont, West Virginia

Muscoda, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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 ... read more


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.


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.


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.


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.