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Sale butterfly and bee on buttonbush flower

Cephalanthus occidentalis Fiber Optics® (buttonbush)

Next available Monday or Tuesday

Unavailable Available Only few left Out of Stock Pre-order

This is another of my paddle-by plants. I see it a ton from a canoe on a river. It's in native gardens too and here and there you'll see it as a surprise in regular gardens. It stands out because it flowers in the summer heat and those flowers. They are spherical! Perfectly spherical.

It's weird, native, and a pollinator plant. Insects love the flowers and I read mentions that birds eat the seeds. Since I first wrote this, I learned more interesting facts about buttonbush in Georgia Gardening Magazine where specific insect species were mentioned - butterflies and honeybees love the flowers, plus it's larval food for colorful sphinx moths. The writer, Norman Winter, put a bird count on the buttons too - informing his readers that 25 species of birds eat the seeds. 

I knew Cephalanthus has a vast growing range, but Mr. Winter also informed me that it's native in all but 11 states and that it's found in Canada too.

Fiber Optics was chosen as tamer variety of buttonbush, growing to 6' tall. Typically Cephalanthus can burgeon up to 12' tall.

Plus, Fiber Optics' new growth is colorful! It's red when first emerging, turning copper, then settling down to dark green. The mature leaves are darker green than typical.

We have cultivars of two other native shrubs that grow alongside buttonbush in the wild: Cayenne silky dogwood and elderberry.

Fiber Optics buttonbush is another First Editions® shrub we proudly grow.

  • if you're looking for new options for wet soils, use Fiber Optics buttonbush for a shrub with truly different flowers
  • the spherical flower heads will likely be unique in your garden and stand out from other shrubs
  • it flowers in July in Zone 8a, a time when other shrubs are not doing much of interest
  • Fiber Optics has these interesting flowers, but it also has colorful new growth for two-season interest
colorful new growth, lover of wet soils, pollinator plant, bird food
Common Name
buttonbush, button-willow, honey bells
Other Names
USDA Hardiness Zones
flowering shrub, deciduous
Growth Rate
Flower Color
Showy Flower?
Flower Season
Leaf Colors
  • Spring: red, copper
  • Summer: dark green
Fall Leaf Color Quality
Native to USA?
Native To
Eastern US
Soil Moisture Requirements
average garden soil, moist, wet, swampy, standing water
Soil pH Requirements
acid, neutral
Light Requirements
full sun, part shade
To Make It Thrive
Buttonbush chooses to grow in wet soils near bodies of water (rivers, swamps) when left to its own devices, in the wild. Even though it adapts to typical garden conditions, it's a good option for planting in wet soils - someplace where it will have wet feet that other plants don't like. It doesn't like dry soils. Give it full sun for best flowering.
Plant Patent
'Bailoptics' PPAF
I've seen buttonbush before and it was a little tall and scraggly.
Yeah, we love the flowers, but the shrub looked too wild to us. Fiber Optics was selected by First Editions as a garden-worthy form. It's about half the size of the wild types, at 6' tall instead of 12'. Also, the foliage is dark green and all-around better-looking.

As an aside, if you have the wild forms and they've gone a little too native for your tastes, go at them with the pruners. Cephalanthus responds really well to pruning - either selective pruning of too tall branches (prune back tall scragglyes ones and they will grow two more branches to make the area denser) or harsher pruning by cutting all branches close to the ground. Cutting close to the ground will buy you more time and greatly freshen up the shrub with new growth.

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