This study reports evidence that the timing of leaf growth responds to developmental and environmental constraints in Clusia spp. We monitored diel patterns of leaf growth in the facultative C3-crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) species Clusia minor and in the supposedly obligate CAM species Clusia alata using imaging methods and followed diel patterns of CO2 exchange and acidification. Developing leaves of well-watered C. minor showed a C3-like diel pattern of gas exchange and growth, with maximum relative growth rate (RGR) in the early night period. Growth slowed when water was withheld, accompanied by nocturnal CO2 exchange and the diel acid change characteristic of CAM. Maximum leaf RGR shifted from early night to early in the day when water was withheld. In well-watered C. alata, similar changes in the diel pattern of leaf growth occurred with the development of CAM during leaf ontogeny. We hypothesize that the shift in leaf growth cycle that accompanies the switch from C3 photosynthesis to CAM is mainly caused by the primary demand of CAM for substrates for nocturnal CO2 fixation and acid synthesis, thus reducing the availability of carbohydrates for leaf growth at night. Although the shift to leaf growth early in the light is presumably associated with the availability of carbohydrates, source–sink relationships and sustained diurnal acid levels in young leaves of Clusia spp. need further evaluation in relation to growth processes.