We investigated the effects of root-zone temperature on bud break, flowering, shoot growth and gas exchange of potted mature apple (Malus domestica (Borkh.)) trees with undisturbed roots. Soil respiration was also determined. Potted 'Braeburn' apple trees on M.9 rootstock were grown for 70 days in a constant day/night temperature regime (25/18 °C) and one of three constant root-zone temperatures (7, 15 and 25 °C). Both the proportion and timing of bud break were significantly enhanced as root-zone temperature increased. Rate of floral cluster opening was also markedly increased with increasing root-zone temperature. Shoot length increased but shoot girth growth declined as root-zone temperatures increased. Soil respiration and leaf photosynthesis generally increased as root-zone temperatures increased. Results indicate that apple trees growing in regions where root zone temperatures are ' 15 °C have delayed bud break and up to 20% fewer clusters than apple trees exposed to root zone temperatures of ' 15 °C. The effect of root-zone temperature on shoot performance may be mediated through the mobilization of root reserves, although the role of phytohormones cannot be discounted. Variation in leaf photosynthesis across the temperature treatments was inadequately explained by stomatal conductance. Given that root growth increases with increasing temperature, changes in sink activity induced by the root-zone temperature treatments provide a possible explanation for the non-stomatal effect on photosynthesis. Irrespective of underlying mechanisms, root-zone temperatures influence bud break and flowering in apple trees.