UNITED STATES—”Zeroscape” is a neologism that evolved from “xeriscape.” It was a mispronunciation that became a misspelling that became a real word. Ironically, it makes sense. It evolved with the misconception that a xeriscape requires no maintenance. Now, the two are different types of landscapes. A Zeroscape is pavement or gravel that requires zero maintenance.

A xeriscape is a landscape of xeric vegetation. Generally, such a landscape needs less maintenance than conventional landscapes. Nonetheless, some degree of maintenance is necessary. Furthermore, several xeric species require very specialized maintenance. Such specialized requirements may be more demanding than more familiar gardening.

The primary advantage of a xeriscape is that it needs less water than other landscapes. Some xeric species are native to Mediterranean climates. More are native to arid desert climates. Once established, they need minimal irrigation. Many xeric species get all the moisture they need from seasonal rainfall. Some cannot tolerate much more than that.

Xeric species can be both very resilient and very vulnerable.

Native species that grow wild can be surprisingly difficult to establish in home gardens. Some xeric species can be even more uncooperative. Cultivation within a garden is very different from natural conditions. In the wild, such species disperse roots proportionately as they grow from seed. In a garden, they begin with detrimentally confined root systems.

Even xeric vegetation within a xeriscape needs moisture while it disperses roots. A few may get enough through winter if they get into a garden early in autumn. Most prefer a bit of irrigation at least through their first year. The difficulty is that some can rot if irrigation is even slightly excessive. They are more susceptible to rot than species that are not xeric.

Maintenance of a xeriscape, is more challenging than demanding. That is because so many xeric species are from harsh desert ecosystems. They innately defend themselves from grazing wildlife. Consequently, cacti, agaves and yuccas are wickedly thorny and spiny. Several are potentially dangerous to handle. So are some euphorbs and acacias. They may not need maintenance often, but when they do, they do not make it at all easy.

Highlight: Mound Lily

Yucca is a genus of about 50 species. However, any two can hybridize. They are more like 50 or so varieties of one species. They maintain distinction by blooming at different times or inhabiting different ranges. Mound lily, Yucca gloriosa, is one of these species. However, it is technically a perpetuating hybrid of Yucca filamentosa and Yucca aloifolia.

Mound lily develops symmetrical foliar rosettes that are only a few feet tall. Stout trunks that develop below can very slowly elevate these rosettes about eight feet. Elegantly tall floral stalks can stand as high as five feet higher. The stiff and evergreen leaves are one to two feet long, and about two inches wide. Their terminal foliar spines are very sharp.

The most popular cultivar of mound lily is variegated with creamy white stripes. Tristis is a variety with more flexible and arching foliage. It formerly classified as a distinct species of Yucca recurvifolia. All yuccas bloom with small, pendulous and creamy white flowers. Such flowers may exhibit a pale purplish or faint pale greenish blush.

Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.