The experts break it down for us.

By Tamara Kraus
Updated June 23, 2017
Xeric yard
Credit: Melanie Acevedo/Getty Images

Zero-scaping, xeriscaping, no-scaping—what exactly is the difference? Chances are you’ve been using these terms interchangeably (or have never even heard of them) when in fact they’re completely different. Below, top landscaping pros clear up the confusion so you can appropriately design your outdoor space.

First off, zero-scaping is a variation of the word “xeriscaping,” which is a type of landscaping that uses low- or no-water, says Daryl Beyers, a landscape designer and gardening instructor in New York City. Quick language lesson: “Xeric” is Greek for “dry.” Xeriscaping typically incorporates plants that can withstand droughts (like succulents, cactus, and agave). While zero-scaping is similar, this type of landscaping typically includes fewer plants than xeriscaping.

Justin Hancock, a garden expert from Costa Farms in Miami, FL, stresses that xeriscaping isn’t just about conserving water—it’s about being smart about how you use it. “For example, if there are particular plants you love but they’re really thirsty, one principle of xeric design is to group them together in one part of your yard—in a spot where it’s convenient to water them (rather than having one thirsty plant in the backyard and a thirsty plant in the front yard, for instance),” he says. “If you’re in an area that gets a lot of heavy rains, xeric design might include adding a rain garden where excess water can accumulate and slowly be absorbed into the earth.”

When it comes to no-scaping, Beyers explains, “While plants play a minimal role in a zero-scape design, no-scaping allows for no plants at all.” Think of this design practice more of an art piece than a garden. Instead of using plants to incorporate color and patterns, stones, glass, and wood fill that role.

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Still have a headache from the similarities? Here’s a quick recap from Beyers: “If there is a middle ground to be found among these terms, it is that zero-scaping lies between xeriscaping and no-scaping. Zero-scaping is xeriscaping that shies away from plants, though it does not shun them. Xeriscape gardens are quite often very lush, with numerous plants playing important roles in the design. No-scaping means no plants!”