How to Prune Ilex Glabra When Leggy


Ilex glabra, commonly known as gallberry, is a popular evergreen shrub that averages 4 to 8 feet in height and can be found in hardiness zones 5 to 10. Gallberry naturally becomes leggy as it grows, but gardeners can keep the plant compact with careful annual pruning. The best time to prune your ilex glabra shrub is either in the fall before winter lows set it or in the early spring once frost danger has passed for your region.

Step 1

Cut your ilex glabra back severely with hedge clippers, leaving 2 to 4 inches of shrub. This is one way to prune a leggy ilex glabra, although gardeners do not need to take such drastic pruning action if they prefer not to.

Step 2

Shear your leggy ilex glabra with hedge clippers. Choose a desired height and head back your plant to this height. Ilex glabra is a hardy shrub that can tolerate severe shearing. Shearing is the first step in pruning a leggy shrub.

Step 3

Prune out old growth that does not produce much foliage. Using anvil pruners, clip the growth back at its base or back to a side shoot that is producing foliage.

Step 4

Remove any dead or damaged branches on your ilex glabra. Cut these off at the base with the anvil pruners. In between each cut of unhealthy wood, sanitize your pruners by spraying them with a disinfectant. This prevents you from spreading bacteria or fungi to otherwise healthy wood or to other plants in your garden when you reuse the pruners.

Things You'll Need

  • Hedge clippers
  • Anvil pruners
  • Disinfectant spray


  • Gardening KnowHow: Trimming Holly Bushes
  • Floridara: Ilex Glabra
Keywords: ilex glabra, gallberry, prune leggy shrub

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.