Some saplings and shrubs growing in the understory of temperate deciduous forests extend their periods of leaf display beyond that of the overstory, resulting in periods when understory radiation, and hence productivity, are not limited by the overstory canopy. To assess the importance of the duration of leaf display on the productivity of understory and overstory trees of deciduous forests in the north eastern United States, we applied the simulation model, BIOME-BGC with climate data for Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire, USA and mean ecophysiological data for species of deciduous, temperate forests. Extension of the overstory leaf display period increased overstory leaf area index (LAI) by only 3 to 4% and productivity by only 2 to 4%. In contrast, extending the growing season of the understory relative to the overstory by one week in both spring and fall, increased understory LAI by 35% and productivity by 32%. A 2-week extension of the growing period in both spring and fall increased understory LAI by 53% and productivity by 55%.