Cephalanthus occidentalis 'SMCOSS' SUGAR SHACK
Common Name: buttonbush 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Rubiaceae
Zone: 4 to 10
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Hummingbirds, Butterflies
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Erosion, Wet Soil


Easily grown in moist, humusy soils in full sun to part shade. Grows very well in wet soils, including flood conditions and shallow standing water. Adapts to a wide range of soils except dry ones. Pruning is usually not necessary, but may be done in early spring to shape. If plants become unmanageable, however, they may be cut back near to the ground in early spring to revitalize.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cephalanthus occidentalis, commonly called buttonbush, is a somewhat coarse, deciduous shrub with an open-rounded habit that typically grows 6-12’ (infrequently to 20’) tall. It is common throughout the eastern United States, most frequently occurring in wet open areas, low woods, thickets, swamps, upland sink-hole ponds, river bottomland and stream/pond margins. Tiny, tubular, 5-lobed, fragrant white flowers appear in dense, spherical, long-stalked flower heads (to 1.5” diameter) in early to mid-summer. Long, projecting styles give the flower heads a distinctively pincushion-like appearance. Flower heads are very attractive to bees and butterflies. Flower heads mature into hard spherical ball-like fruits consisting of multiple tiny two-seeded nutlets. Fruiting heads usually persist throughout the winter. Ovate to elliptic glossy bright green leaves (to 6” long) are in pairs or whorls. Leaves emerge late in spring.

Genus name comes from the Greek words kephale meaning "head" and anthos meaning "flower".

'SMCOSS' is a compact, dwarf selection of buttonbush that features glossy foliage and globular heads of small, white flowers. Mature plants will reach up to 4' tall and spread to fill a similar area. The flowerheads are 1" in diameter and bloom from early to mid summer. The blooms are followed by a red, spherical, compound fruit. The lightly fragrant flowers are highly attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insect pollinators. Commonly found in nurseries and garden centers sold under the name SUGAR SHACK. Plant patent number PP26543 applies to this cultivar.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Woodland garden margins, native plant gardens, pond margins, low spots or shrub borders.