Notable Natives: Buttonbush

Notable Natives: Buttonbush

You are interested in planting more natives to support local wildlife and pollinators. You’d also like a reliable shrub that won’t grow to be a Jolly Green Giant. And it wouldn’t hurt if the plant had flowers that made you smile with delight.

Have I got a plant for you.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is native to North America, but is usually too large for most landscapes. The cultivar, ‘SMCOSS,’ more commonly called by its trademark name, Sugar Shack, has all of the fun and pollinator support as the species, but is small enough to fit into most landscapes.

The flowers on this shrub can be best described as being fun. They are a combination of a pin cushion and Sputnik, opening white in mid-July and fading to a rusty pink in August. When it’s in bloom, Sugar Shack makes people stop in their tracks and ask, “What’s this?”

Now for the facts about this shrub. You can plant it in full sun or part-sun, and it thrives in average to moist soils. It naturally has a rounded shape and grows to about four feet tall and five feet wide. The white flowers turn into reddish fruit, and attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Buttonbush has a loose habit with rich green foliage. It isn’t bothered by any particular insects or diseases, making it a carefree choice for your landscape.
Sugar Shack Cephalanthus fits in with other shrubs nicely. Since it flowers in July, it’s especially nice to combine with spring-flowering plants. Grow this with a purple foliaged ninebark (Physocarpus) such as Summer Wine, and a variegated red-twig dogwood for a combination of great flowers and foliage color.
You’ll see all types of bees and many other pollinating insects visit these shrubs.
As the flowers age, first they turn a honey gold…
…and later into a rosy peach.
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