The stem elongation phase in wheat [Triticum aestivum (L.)] is considered critical for yield determination. A longer duration of this phase could hypothetically increase grain set and therefore yield. Genetic variation in the relative duration of the stem elongation phase having been reported, the aim was to pinpoint whether this variability was associated with sensitivity to photoperiod, vernalizing temperatures or to differences in intrinsic earliness. Pairs of cultivars identified as having different duration of the stem elongation phase (from the appearance of the first visible node to anthesis) were grown under natural (short) or extended photoperiod, with or without vernalization. Variability in the duration of this phase, in the cultivars analysed, was related to different sensitivity to photoperiod, while differences in the previous phases were related to sensitivity to both photoperiod (though different to the sensitivity of the following phase) and vernalization.