Abstract. Leaf expansion of four sunflower cultivars (Helianthus annuus L. cvs. Hysun 31, Havasupai, Hopi and Seneca) was monitored continuously in a growth cabinet through the final stages of a drying cycle and then throughout the first 2 days after rewatering in order to study the responses of leaf expansion to water deficits. Comparable plants were also measured throughout a diurnal cycle in a glasshouse. In the cabinet, leaf extension was faster in the dark than in the light, but an extended dark period suppressed leaf extension. At similar leaf water potentials, the rate of leaf extension was greater in the light than in the dark, but as the osmotic potential was lower in the light than in the dark, the relationship between turgor pressure and leaf extension rate was similar in both environments. Throughout the drying and recovery cycles turgor and leaf extension rate was positively correlated: no significant differences among cultivars were observed. In the plants grown and measured in the glasshouse, leaf expansion occurred at lower leaf water potentials in stressed than in unstressed plants, but the relationship between leaf expansion and turgor was similar in both stressed and unstressed plants as a result of a lowering of the osmotic potential in the former. Diurnal turgor maintenance resulting from osmotic adjustment was almost half that occurring during a complete drying cycle. During the day, the leaf expansion rate increased linearly with turgor pressure in all cultivars: the expansion rate per unit turgor pressure was greater in the glasshouse than in the growth cabinet. Nocturnal leaf expansion in the stressed and unstressed plants was not, however, correlated with turgor pressure.