The effect of soil thawing and soil temperature on postwinter recovery of photosynthetic capacity was studied, during late spring and early summer, in Norway spruce stands in northern Sweden. Soil temperature was manipulated by means of buried heating cables. The warming treatment was applied to stands with low (natural) and high (fertilized) availability of nutrients. Soil thawing, expressed as water availability, was followed by means of sapflow in stems, and shoot water potentials. The recovery of photosynthetic capacity was assessed by measuring the rate of light-saturated photosynthesis (Amax), and maximum photochemical efficiency of photosystem II in detached shoots, and chlorophyll a fluorescence. Accumulation of starch reserves in the needles was followed as an independent indicator of photosynthetic performance in situ. Snowmelt and soil thawing occurred more than one month earlier in heated than in unheated plots. This was expressed both as sapflow and as differences in shoot water potential between treatments. During May, the rates of Amax were significantly higher on heated than on control plots. The effect of soil warming on Amax was, however, not reflected in chlorophyll fluorescence or needle starch content. The time course of the recovery of photosynthetic capacity was mainly controlled by mean air temperature and by the frequency of severe night frosts, and to a lesser extent by earlier soil thawing and higher soil temperatures.