A well-timed phenology is essential for plant growth and reproduction, but species-specific phenological strategies are still poorly understood. Here, we use a common garden approach to compare biannual leaf-out data for 495 woody species growing outdoors in Munich, 90% of them not native to that climate regime. For three species, data were augmented by herbarium dates for 140-year-long time series. We further meta-analysed 107 temperate-zone woody species in which leaf-out cues have been studied, half of them also monitored here. Southern climate–adapted species flushed significantly later than natives, and photoperiod- and chilling- sensitive species all flushed late. The herbarium method revealed the extent of species-specific climate tracking. Our results forecast that: (1) a northward expansion of southern species due to climate warming will increase the number of late flushers in the north, counteracting documented and expected flushing time advances; and (2) photoperiod- and chilling-sensitive woody species cannot rapidly track climate warming.