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Buttonbush: sun or shade?

Posted by crabbygardener 7b / NC (My Page) on
Sun, Mar 9, 14 at 11:51

I have a question about a plant I received for free at work: Cephalanthus occidentalis (Rubiaceae), aka Buttonbush. If memory serves, it's a North America native often found near streams in the woods. I was told that it thrives in full to part shade, which is where I planted it, but it barely grew this past year. Google searching revealed some websites that agreed with the shade assessment, but quite a few websites said that it grows in sun/part sun. Any insight? Should I transplant this guy to more sun, or is shade better? Any other ideas on how to get him to grow this year? I keep him well watered with water from my rain barrel--I've heard he's a thirsty one.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Buttonbush: sun or shade?

My original one bloomed after three years, on a streambank but mostly in shade. Now it is about 10 feet tall. However, another one was planted on the lakeshore in full sun. So far it has not bloomed, but it has grown much faster than the one in partial shade.

So, I think your site is probably OK, but you need patience, which I don't have much of any more as the years have flown by.

RE: Buttonbush: sun or shade?

Suspect the variation in light recommendations is because c. occidentalis can range from Canada to Mexico. Most recommendations I've seen written for regions with the long 100°+ runs found in north Texas (8a) call for some shade. Full sun is probably fine and likely recommended for less intense heat further north or at higher altitudes. Have encountered this with several other plants recommended for full sun in the north, but have to be given some shade here in order to thrive or even survive.

Buttonbush might work in full sunlight here in a water or wetland location, but most of the recommendations are written for typically drier landscape use. Ours is happy in partial shade, but grows very slowly.

RE: Buttonbush: sun or shade?

  • Posted by dbarron Z6/7 (Oklahoma) (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 11, 14 at 8:49

I see buttonbush in varied conditions from full sun to 1/2 shade here in Oklahoma and Arkansas. I've grown it in both, and find constant moisture to affect growth even more than light conditions. I'm not sure that full shade will do...really.

RE: Buttonbush: sun or shade?

Here in Zone 5 New Hampshire buttonbush does best in full sun. It also seems to like lots of nutrients. Does not seem to be affected by pollution.

Buttonbush cannot grow underneath a stand of red maple. You have to cut the maple trees down first.

RE: Buttonbush: sun or shade?

I have a stand in full shade, swamp, lots of swamp maples. It took a while (4 years) - but now blooms very nicely - a good plant for a difficult place.

RE: Buttonbush: sun or shade?

Thanks for your replies, everyone!

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