Shrub of the Week: Buttonbush

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  Native plants are all the rage in the plant world (apart from new hydrangea cultivars), and rightfully so―they are well adapted to our climate and zone, and serve as a host for a variety of insects, birds, and other wildlife. Indeed, when we plant a landscape we aren’t just making an area look nice. Rather, we are creating an ecosystem.

  A native plant that shines this time of year is Cephalanthus occidentalis, Buttonbush. This plant is commonly thought of only for its globular white flowers in summer. Yet this member of the Rubiaceae is attractive all season. Glossy green leaves adorn the plant in summer and turn yellow to red in the fall. One selection that is particularly attractive is Cephalanthus occidentalis ‘SMCOSS’ Sugar Shack®.

 

Buttonbush foliage in fall

  Sugar Shack®, a true dwarf selection (3-4’ tall and wide) with fruits that turn red in early fall. This selection has been planted at Secrest for four years and has performed well.

 

Buttonbush fruit

  The flowers are not only unique in their shape, but they are borne on long stalks which make them stand out against the foliage.  The slightly fragrant flowers are loved by bees and butterflies, making it a wonderful addition to a butterfly or pollinator garden.

 

Buttonbush foliage

While the species is native to swampy areas, it is adaptable to most landscape soils except dry ones. Cephalanthus can be planted in sun to part shade. In addition, no major insect or disease problems are known on this plant.