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.
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.
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.
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.
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.