Sesleria Autumnalis: Autumn Moor Grass Information and Care

Sesleria Autumnalis, or Autumn Moor Grass, is an eye-catching evergreen perennial. Why should you consider it and how to grow it?

Sesleria autumnalis is a cool-season perennial grass with a low mounding habit. The foliage is evergreen and arching in appearance. The blades have an eye-catching yellow-green tone with a golden autumn tinge. Silvery spikes grow above the foliage in the summer, maturing into soft tan seed heads in the fall. This adaptable grass thrives in the sun and can tolerate a range of different soils.

Autumn moor grass has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s coveted Award of Golden Merit. The generic name honors Leonardo Selser, an Italian botanist who lived in the 18th century. The specific epithet refers to the grass’ fall flowers.

General Information

Autumn moor grass grows vertically in tufted mounds of arching evergreen leaves. The v-shaped blades are 8 to 12 inches long and a quarter-inch wide. The leaves are bright yellow-green or chartreuse in color. In rare cases, as autumn approaches, leaves may turn golden.

Flowering may begin in spring or summer in warm climates. However, the silvery spiky inflorescences don’t appear until autumn. The inflorescences are approximately 14 inches wide and 4 to 6 inches long. They have velvety white stamens that are purple.

Next, long, golden-brown seed heads appear, and they usually last all winter. Plants in bloom are approximately 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide.

Sesleria autumnalis is native to the grasslands, meadows, and open forests of southern Europe and the Caucasus. Plants can be found from eastern and northern Italy to Albania. In the United States, the grass has naturalized and can be found throughout the country, with the exception of the arid desert and hot, humid Southeast. Plants are hardy in USDA Zones 5–9.

Care and Maintenance

Autumn moor grass grows best in full sun or partial shade, in average to dry, well-drained soil, and with consistent hydration. Plants can withstand a wide range of conditions, including dry shade, high salinity, drought, alkaline pH, and soil types. This species can withstand harsh urban environments as well as the difficult conditions created by Black Walnut trees.

Autumn moor grass produces the majority of its leaves once the weather turns cool. Mulch should be used in the winter to protect roots from the cold and in the summer to conserve water. Plants should be groomed or clipped to the ground in late winter to remove damaged foliage and make room for new growth. It does not frequently reseed.

This grass is pest-resistant, and deer and other animals dislike it. It is, however, sensitive to summer heat and extreme humidity. 

How to Use in Landscapes

Sesleria autumnalis is a lovely groundcover that brightens up sunny meadows. This grass is excellent for use as a planting matrix, especially in colder climates. The tufted habit and delicate texture benefit mixed plants. Because of its high pH tolerance, cold hardiness, and drought tolerance, it is ideal for green roofs.

This plant is suitable for accent, edging, and mass planting. It provides winter interest and erosion control and supports deer-resistant plantings, low-maintenance gardens, perennial borders, and rock gardens.

assorted moor grass beautifully landscaped in the garden

Companion Plants

The plants chosen here as companions to autumn moor grass are easy to cultivate and low maintenance, with a mellow harmony of pink and tan tones that are relaxing to the eye. The majority of these plants are drought-resistant and deer-resistant and make great cut flowers!

Consider combining these choices with a water feature, such as a small fountain. 

Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Pallida)

The pale purple coneflower blooms in early summer. It has daisy-like flowers with drooping, light pinkish-purple petals (ray flowers) and spiny, knobby, coppery-orange center cones. Its thin, parallel-veined, toothed foliage is between 4 and 10 inches long. 

Flowers develop on stiff stalks that are up to 3 feet tall. Once established, the deep taproot enables a long-lived, low-maintenance plant that can thrive in hot, dry conditions. It is a favorite food source for butterflies and humming hummingbirds. Later in the summer, the massive seed heads attract goldfinches and other birds.

This plant is drought- and heat-resistant. It can tolerate humidity and poor soil conditions. It does, however, need good drainage since it does not like overly wet soil. 

Native Americans have long recognized the therapeutic value of echinacea. The plant is now commonly used in supplements and herbal teas due to its numerous health benefits.

a pale purple coneflower blooming under the heat of the sun

Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium Maculatum)

Spotted joe-pye weed, a large clumping perennial, adds architectural interest to the late summer landscape. On several firm stalks, this hardy wildflower bears whorls of bold, beautiful leaves. From midsummer to fall, the plant produces terminal flat-topped flower corymbs that are approximately 7 inches wide. The flower clusters are made up of many feathery lavender-pink disc florets. In winter, the flowers turn into soft buff-colored clusters.

Spotted joe-pye weed thrives in full to partial sun. It likes damp, mineral-rich silty or sandy loam soil and overall humid conditions. Its leaves are prone to burning during droughts. It can be used to control erosion control and stormwater.

The plant is pest- and deer-resistant. Butterflies, on the other hand, love this long-blooming perennial.

Oriental Fountain Grass (Pennisetum Orientale‘ Karley Rose’)

This plant is a warm-season fountain grass native to Asia. It’s a lovely grass with beautiful, spreading leaf clumps up to 18 inches tall and thin gray-green leaves as wide as a quarter inch. This ornamental grass’s foliage and stunning flower spikes add texture, color, and contrast to borders, foundations, and open spaces.

The plant’s common name is derived from the showy, fluffy, pinkish-white flower spikes that arch upward and forth from the leaf cluster in late summer, similar to water shooting from a fountain. The flower spikes rise up to 3 inches above the foliage. 

Flower spikes bloom for a long time, from early June to the end of August. The foliage turns a yellowish-tan color in the autumn and remains beautiful well into the winter.

Oriental fountain grass is easily grown in locations with sun to moderate shade, medium moisture, and well-drained soils. It does best in direct sunlight. While it is tolerant of partial shade, it is unlikely to bloom in full shade. 

a view of tall fountain grass during sunset

Japanese Burnet (Sanguisorba Obtusa)

The Japanese burnet is an easily maintained plant with distinctive flowers that bloom for a long time. Over the course of the summer, this plant creates low mounds of elegant gray-green pinnately compound leaves with serrated edges capped with arching, bottlebrush-like spikes of soft-pink flowers. 

The Japanese burnet, sometimes called bottlebrush, likes sunny, well-draining locations and clay or loamy soil that does not easily dry out. 

The plant is virtually pest- and disease-free and rabbit-resistant. If you deadhead spent flowers, you will have a neat-looking accent plant that attracts birds and butterflies and works well for cut-flower arrangements.

The Japanese burnet propagates by seeding in the fall. You can also divide the plant in the spring, when clumps will readily split. Cut it back in winter to encourage new growth in the spring.

Bee Balm (Monarda ‘Marshall’s Delight’)

Bee balm is a fantastic choice for a perennial border, with brightly colored flowers that bloom throughout the summer. Huge, shaggy heads feature bright hot-pinks blossoms. Unlike other varieties, Marshall’s Delight has aromatic foliage and is resistant to powdery mildew. 

Bee balm likes locations with full or partial sun and loamy, moist, well-draining soil. It does not like soggy or dry conditions, so consider adding mulch around the plant.

This plant is a quick spreader and can take over a garden if not held in check. It is best to cut back the clumps in early spring. Throughout the year, thin out the stems to encourage air flow, which will minimize the risk of disease. Trimming the foliage after blooming will stimulate new growth and perhaps even a late-season rebloom. 

Bee balm attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds.

blooming pink monarda bee balm flowers
Jeffrey Douglas
Jeffrey Douglas own a landscaping company and has been in the business for over 20 years. He loves all things related to lawns or gardens and believes that proper maintenance is the key to preventing problems in the first place.
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