Sugar Shack® Buttonbush

Cephalanthus occidentalis ‘SMCOSS’ PP26,543

Description & Overview

Sugar Shack® Buttonbush is a compact selection of our native species. Its glossy foliage emerges red in spring, maturing to green, then turning to burgundy in the fall. Unique, fragrant blooms emerge in July followed by colorful red fruit late in the summer. An excellent small-stature shrub for wetter sites!

Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: No – Variety of North American Native
Mature Height: 3-4 feet
Mature Spread: 3-4 feet
Growth Rate: Moderate
Growth Form: Rounded Shrub, Compact
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Site Requirements: Tolerates wet soils, intolerant of drought
Flower: Creamy white globe, fragrant
Bloom Period: July
Foliage: Glossy Dark Green
Fall Color: Burgundy
Fruit Notes: Globular seed head, red

Suggested Uses:

The compact size of Sugar Shack® Buttonbush is useful for restricted spaces where a full-sized Cephalanthus cultivar will not fit. Use it as a component of foundation plantings, as a small-scale specimen, or an urban rain garden where soils are wet. It can be left alone as a specimen or massed for a low screen.

Fragrant blooms emerge in July (right) followed by colorful red fruit (left) late in the summer.

Wildlife Value:

Like its parent plant, Sugar Shack® Buttonbush provides food to wildlife throughout the growing season. The fragrant flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators in summer. The seeds are a food source for a variety of water birds, although this may be less common in an urban landscape setting. The leaves of Sugar Shack® Buttonbush are a host for the Titan Sphinx Moth caterpillar.

Maintenance Tips:

Sugar Shack® Buttonbush can be shaped annually using the Haircut Method. If you desire less frequent maintenance, you can use Rejuvenative Pruning every 2-3 years to encourage a new flush of growth. Pruning should be done during the dormant season between late fall and early spring. As this shrub flowers on new wood, it should not be pruned after the buds have broken as this will remove any flowers for that year.


Sugar Shack® Buttonbush has no major insect or disease issues. Occasional browsing of the leaves by insects is no cause for concern.

Leaf Lore:

The native Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, is found across eastern North America from Texas to Nova Scotia. Sugar Shack® Buttonbush is a compact selection of the species that is better suited to restricted spaces, maturing to half the size of the native plant. In spring, the glossy foliage emerges red and matures to green, the perfect backing for its unique globular flowers. Expect to see many visitors to this plant as the flowers are prized by pollinators and hummingbirds. The red globular fruit provides interest in late summer, followed by a deep burgundy fall color. This plant shines through every season as a specimen. For best results, Sugar Shack® Buttonbush should be sited where soils are never completely dry between rainfall events.

Companion Plants:

The compact nature of Sugar Shack® Buttonbush can be used with low foreground plantings or taller background plants. Use plants tolerant of moist soils like Baby Joe Pye Weed and Hot Lips Turtlehead for foreground plants. As a background plant, consider using J.N. Strain Musclewood for its beautiful fall color.