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What is Zeroscaping?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Zeroscaping is a low-water landscaping philosophy which places a heavy focus on using native plants and succulents to create a natural looking and beautiful garden. Often, garden rocks, gravel, and sculptural features are include to create a spare, simple look which some gardeners find quite elegant. In other cases, a zeroscaped garden may be a profusion of lush native plants. People who specialize in zeroscaping are known as zeroscapers.

The concept is closely related to xeriscaping, a school of gardening which is aimed at creating beautiful gardens in dry or harsh landscapes. Both take advantage of native plants which thrive naturally in the environment that the garden is planted in, along with a variety of tricks to conserve water and use water efficiently. In dry, desert areas, zeroscaping includes a great deal of cacti and succulents, while more moist areas may have gardens which are alive with foliage.

There are several reasons to practice zeroscaping. Many municipalities encourage it, since zeroscaping is designed to be very water efficient. In some regions, cities sponsor contests and garden tours to get people more interested in zeroscaping as a concept. The low water usage benefits the environment, keeps water bills low, and is part of a more general conservationist philosophy.

In addition, since zeroscaping focuses on native plants, it is a great way to preserve native plant species and to celebrate the local flora. Gardens made with non-native plants can start to look rather artificial, and they also require a great deal of work, since these plants may not be accustomed to the prevailing conditions. Native plants, on the other hand, will thrive with minimal work, and they often look quite lovely, especially when they are well arranged in a thoughtful zeroscaping scheme.

Finally, zeroscaping embodies a wide range of aesthetic preferences, from sparse zen gardens to complex, multi-layered riots of color. Zeroscaping can be used to showcase a collection of rocks and sculpture gathered in the gardener's travels, or it can make a lush escape from the real world. In both cases, zeroscaping is intimately connected with the land.

As is the case with a regular garden, a zeroscaped garden requires a lot of work in the beginning. Detailed landscaping plans should be drawn up, with plots of what is going to be planted where, so that the garden will have a cohesive and pleasant look when it is finished. Once things are planted and established, the garden will need to regularly weeded, but it should not require extensive irrigation, as is the case with a more conventional garden. Depending on the desired look, some gardeners also invest time and energy into trimming and shaping the plants in a zeroscaped garden, while others prefer to let their plants run rampant so that the garden mimics the natural environment more closely.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1005349 — On Aug 09, 2021

Can anyone recommend books on zeroscaping?

By anon996205 — On Jul 24, 2016

"Zeroscaping" is usually a misnomer, coming from those who have heard the word "xeriscaping" but never seen it written down, nor known the roots (xeros = dry; -scape = form); the term zeroscaping may be used intentionally, sometimes sarcastically, to describe a barren type of dry landscaping with very few plants and an over-abundance of rock or gravel; as such, when used intentionally, "zeroscaping" is not closely related to xeriscaping.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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