In laboratory and greenhouse experiments with potted plants, shoots and roots are exposed to temperature regimes throughout a 24 h (diel) cycle that can differ strongly from the regime under which these plants have evolved. In the field, roots are often exposed to lower temperatures than shoots. When the root-zone temperature in Ricinus communis was decreased below a threshold value, leaf growth occurred preferentially at night and was strongly inhibited during the day. Overall, leaf expansion, shoot biomass growth, root elongation and ramification decreased rapidly, carbon fluxes from shoot to root were diminished and carbohydrate contents of both root and shoot increased. Further, transpiration rate was not affected, yet hydrostatic tensions in shoot xylem increased. When root temperature was increased again, xylem tension reduced, leaf growth recovered rapidly, carbon fluxes from shoot to root increased, and carbohydrate pools were depleted. We hypothesize that the decreased uptake of water in cool roots diminishes the growth potential of the entire plant - especially diurnally, when the growing leaf loses water via transpiration. As a consequence, leaf growth and metabolite concentrations can vary enormously, depending on root-zone temperature and its heterogeneity inside pots.