Cephalanthus occidentalis


$3.00 - $120.00

1/8 oz.
1/4 oz.
1/2 oz.
1 oz.
1 lb.

$11.00/Bare Root Plants - 1 yr
$9.90/Bare Root Plants - 1 yr
Bare Root Plants - 3 yrs
Out of Stock

3 Pack
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Buttonbush is a deciduous shrub that is native to most of the lower 48 states save the Pacific Northwest region and some western states. It is a member of the Coffee family, Rubiaceae. It typically grows in USDA zones 4 through 9.  In these zones, Buttonbush requires full sun to partial shade, and medium to wet soils. Buttonbush can tolerate flood conditions and shallow standing water for short periods of time. It does not do well in dry soils.  In natural settings, Buttonbush is often found in thickets, low woods, swamps, and stream margins, where older shrubs will have many branches and twisted trunks (see photos). Since it is tolerant of very wet soils, it is an ideal candidate for a rain garden or wetland restoration project. 

Growing up to 12' tall and 8' wide, this showy shrub is visited by many different species. The name of this shrub comes from the interesting flowers, which are arranged in small spheres with protruding anthers. Its tiny white flowers bloom all summer and are attractive to many different bee and butterfly species, including the swallowtail butterfly. Fruiting heads appear throughout the winter and are consumed by many waterfowl and shorebirds. Although the flowers and seeds are consumed, the foliage is poisonous to livestock and other animals.  

Live Plant Shipping Table

Spring Fall Age/Size
Dormant Bare Roots April/May October 1 year/12" or 3 yrs/16"
Potted 3-Packs May/June September 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep pots

Cephalanthus occidentalis - Buttonbush

Map Key

Present in state
Present but introduced in county
Present and native in county; not rare
Not present in state
Present and native in county; rare
Species extirpated (historic)
State or county listed as noxious
Present in state; exotic

This map shows the native and introduced (adventive) range of this species. Given appropriate habitat and climate, native plants can be grown outside their range.

6 Questions asked on Cephalanthus occidentalis

I'm in CT. I planted 2 Buttonbush on May 12 and they have not yet leafed out. I fear they are dead.
Hi Ruth. This is one of the latest wetland shrubs to leaf out in the spring so I think it's too early to call it a failure. It's been a cold spring also. If you look closely on the branches, tiny buds, and not brittle dry stems, would be a good indication that it is alive. Give it a few weeks and if you see nothing by mid-June we can refund or replace.
Do you have to have more than one button Bush to get blooms
Hi Marilyn. No, you will get blooms on just 1 shrub.
Does buttonbush tolerate salt? Iā€™d like to plant it in a rain garden that takes in runoff from a residential side street.
Hi Anne, Yes, buttonbush is salt tolerant! Search "salt" on our website for an extensive list of salt tolerant plants!
About how old is that mature buttonbush in the last photo? Are these very long lived? Also wondering if they are considered fast or slow growing.
Hi Erin, that photo was taken by one of our employees at a nearby refuge. We would probably estimate it to be anywhere from 10-15 years old. A Buttonbush planted in a landscape setting likely won't grow as large but it will live a long life. They are moderate to fast growing plants.
We have had some buttonbush along our stream for five years, looking good, but someone cut them down last year. Is it possible they'll regrow from the stump? I love them, by the way! Good solid shrubs, I want to get some more established in nearby areas.
Hi Kathlean. Sorry to hear your Buttonbush had such a setback. According to the USDA Plants Database, this species is quite capable of resprouting! As long as some stump material is above soil level and no chemicals were applied, there is a good chance your plants will rebound.
At what age does a button bush start flowering? We have one that lived in a pot for a couple of years, then was planted in a wet spot with no sun and then moved to a moist spot with afternoon sun. It's grown well and filled out but it's been in its current spot for almost 2 years and still hasn't grown flowers. Would pruning it help?
Hi Terry. Buttonbush will typically start blooming when it is about 3-5 years old, but this will vary depending on the site and weather conditions. The several transplanting events likely delayed the blooming period because the plant was establishing itself in a new location. It sounds like your Buttonbush is very happy where it's at; it should bloom in the next few years. Pruning will not promote flowers at this stage.


Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some species don't need any pre-treatment to germinate, but some species have dormancy mechanisms that must be broken before the seed will germinate. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, read our BLOG: How to Germinate Native Seeds

Dormant Bare Root Plants

We dig plants when they are dormant from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. Some species go dormant in the summer and we can ship them July/August. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants

Potted Plants

3-packs and trays of 32, 38, or 50 plants leave our Midwest greenhouses based on species readiness (being well-rooted for transit) and order date; Spring shipping is typically early May through June, and Fall shipping is mid-August through September. Potted 3-packs and trays of 38 plugs are started from seed in the winter so are typically 3-4 months old when they ship. Trays of 32/50 plugs are usually overwintered so are 1 year old. Plant tray cells are approximately 2ā€ wide x 5ā€ deep in the trays of 38 and 50, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs and trays of 32; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting & care instructions are included with each order.

Download: Planting and Care of Potted Plants

*PLEASE NOTE: we are a mail order nursery and have no retail facilities, but you may pick up your order if prior arrangements are made. Pick up orders are subject to **MN Sales Tax.

US Shipping & Handling Charges

SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
Retail SEED orders over $100.00 ship free!

Custom seed mixes or discounted seed sales over $100, add 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $9.00
over $50.00: 18% of the total plant cost. (For orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required.)

TOOLS and BOOKS have the shipping fee included in the cost of the product (within the contiguous US).

**We are required to collect state sales tax in certain states. Your state's eligibility and % will be calculated at checkout. MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders picked up at our MN location. Shipping & handling charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within 1-3 business days.

BARE ROOT PLANTS are shipped during optimal transplanting time: Spring (April-May) and Fall (Oct). Some ephemeral species are also available for summer shipping. Since our plants are field-grown, Nature sets the schedule each year as to when our season will begin and end. We fill all orders, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to the best of our ability depending on weather conditions beyond our control.

POTTED PLANTS (Trays of 32/38/50 plugs and 3-packs) typically begin shipping early May and go into June; shipping time is heavily dependent on all the species in your order being well-rooted. If winter-spring greenhouse growing conditions are favorable and all species are well-rooted at once, then we ship by order date (first come, first serve). We are a Midwest greenhouse, and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Pre-Designed Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically can't ship before early May. Earlier shipment requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

*We are unable to ship PLANTS (bare root or potted) outside the contiguous US or to CALIFORNIA due to regulations.


We ship using USPS, UPS and Spee Dee. UPS and Spee Dee are often used for expediting plant orders; they will not deliver to Post Office Box numbers, so please also include your street address if ordering plants. We send tracking numbers to your email address so please include it when you order.



Germination Code
Life Cycle
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial
Soil Moisture
Wet, Medium-Wet
up to 12 feet
Bloom Time
June, July, August
Bloom Color
Pollinator Favorite: butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, beetles
Bird Favorite: seeds, insects, fruit, nectar, nesting, perch
Deer Resistant
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Code