House Selling

Buttonbush: A Plant that Thrives in Wet Soils


Buttonbush wasn’t always praised for its beauty. Instead, it was primarily used by beekeepers as a source of nectar for bees. However, if you have a pond or wet soil on your property, this might be the perfect plant for you. To get your trees serviced and trimmed properly by professionals, you can search for “tree service near me”. Let’s check out the buttonbush plant for now:

The Details

  • Common Buttonbush – Buttonbush (A.K.A Cephalanthus occidentalis) is well known for its functionality instead of its beauty. It was introduced commercially to the US market in the early 18th century primarily for beekeepers. That’s why some people also know it as the honey-bell plant. This deciduous tree has been naturalized in many parts of the United States and was mainly used as a nectar and pollen resource for honeybees.

It’s a plant perfect for wet soils since it’s a wetland shrub that’s naturally found in low-lying areas like bogs, marshes, swamps, and edges of rivers, streams, and ponds. That’s why it is also used by ecologists to restore wetlands, reduce erosion in diverse riparian zones and create thriving wildlife habitats.

Since the plant is so useful, people often forget about its ornamental value. As the name suggests, buttonbush has exquisite flowers, and their varieties come in different colors. The unique-looking pin-cushion balls don’t just look good but smell great and draw the attention of both bees and people visiting your property.

  • Hardiness Zones – Before you decide to grow button bushes on your property, you need to figure out if the plant is going to survive in your region. That’s where the cold hardiness map of the US comes in. As long as you live in USDA cold hardiness zones 5 to 11, you can grow this plant without killing it. The range is broad enough to cover Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick in the north, west to Texas and Nebraska, and south to Florida.
  • Buttonbush Maturity – Buttonbush is a short-lived shrub that grows really fast. It spreads far and wide to form thickets and new plants grow from its roots. Buttonbush can grow as tall as 6 to 8 feet when fully mature and can be equally wide. Some varieties can grow even taller at around 15 feet with a similar spread. In the wild, it is unkempt and disheveled and doesn’t look remarkable.

However, beekeepers and homeowners often like to actively prune the wayward and lanky branches that grow outwards. You can also lump different shrubs together to make it a multi-trunked tree. It looks very unique and stands out on your property.

  • Ancient Use – While buttonbush is often used by beekeepers and ecologists alike, native Americans had a different use for it. Buttonbush contains cephalothin, a toxin that can induce vomiting, convulsions, and paralysis if ingested. Interestingly the same plant was used by Native Americans for medicinal use.

Roots of this plant were used for blood medicines and for relieving muscle inflammation. The bark was added into decoctions to serve as an anti-inflammatory medicine for both muscle inflammation and rheumatism. They were also used as a skin astringent, diarrheal agent, and for washing irritated eyes. The bark was also supposedly chewed for alleviating toothaches.

  • Ecological value and ornamental features – Buttonbush is one of the few native American shrubs that opens up and transforms its leaves in early spring from its oval shape to elliptical glossy green leaves. These leaves serve as nutrition to certain moths when they are in the larva stage. They are also a food source for hummingbirds and many other pollinators. You can expect to invite a lot of wildlife in your garden when you plant this shrub.

Your buttonbush clusters would remain unnoticed for the most part of the year. However, it will surprise you, your guests, and your neighbors during the flowering season. During the flowering season that lasts from June to August, each buttonbush flower grows from the size of a gumball to a golf ball-sized sphere. The spheres are clusters of numerous small tubular flowers that have a creamy-white color and a strong fragrance. It kind of looks like a satellite and that’s why these flowers are often referred to as sputniks.

However, that’s not the end of the show. Each flower lasts up to 4 days during which it gets pollinated. Your buttonbush plants look even more gorgeous once the flowers are fertilized by pollinators. They become a hard ball of reddish-brown that develops and matures from August to November. These reddish-brown nutlets last until winter and also become food for waterfowl. So if you plant these on the edges of your small garden pond, you can expect some amazing sights with the change of seasons.

  • Growing Buttonbush – To grow buttonbush you need to start by selecting moderately moist soil that receives partial shade during the day. The soil should not get drained and dry too quickly. After that, spread around 2 inches of compost over the site and work it into 8 to 10 inches of soil. This enhances the moisture-retention properties of the soil.

Dig a hole as deep as the roots of the buttonbush sapling and make the hole twice as wide. You can plant multiple saplings two to three feet apart from each other to account for the spread. Fill the holes halfway with the soil and then water them thoroughly so that the soil settles around the roots. Wait for the soil to dry completely and check the moisture levels every two weeks. You can spread two to three inches of mulch to keep the soil moist for the plants.


If you have moist soil, it may not be suitable for growing a wide variety of plants. In this case, buttonbush is one of the best plants you can grow since it has many ecological benefits and looks great at the same time. If other trees have been damaged due to unfavorable soil conditions you can get help from professionals by searching for “tree service near me”.

Narek Harpo
the authorNarek Harpo