Caption: For some reason, two pots don’t seem right. As you can see below, three are a-OK.

Why do we tend to design things in odd numbers? It has to do with our brain: We like to pair things up.

When we look at several items, we rationally try to put them together in groups of two. When we create a group of three, the eye is trying to find a pair, so it keeps moving—and that’s a good thing. In a garden, where our “art” is living and breathing, we want to enhance that movement—and having groups of odd numbers does the trick!

However, for a more formal or contemporary look, design in a more symmetrical fashion. Even numbers, arranged as pairs, will form a pattern that attracts the eye’s focus. Two pots placed on opposite sides of a front gate or entryway, for example, will help guests focus on the entrance rather than passing it by.

How else does an odd number of pots help in our desert landscape design? Long walls and square pots add to the linear look of a backyard wall. Look at the photo above: These two pots just do not seem right against this wall: They stop us dead in our tracks, for some reason. By adding a third pot—round in shape—and twisting the squares to change the angles, the result is much more appealing. Now you see the garden rather than the wall!

When you are ready to redesign and are thinking about adding some pots, place some large objects where you may want to position the pots. (Trash cans, propane tanks and buckets will serve you well without breaking your back.) Once you think you have your design ready, go pot-shopping with my mantra in mind: Bigger is better! If your pots are going to be in the full summer sun, choose pots that are at least 22 inches in diameter.

And as always while gardening, remember: Have fun!

Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. Marylee is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at; follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.