Little is known about the growth and development of the cranberry plant (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) in response to air and soil temperatures in the spring. During this period, marked changes in cranberry bud hardiness are known to occur (from –20 to 0 °C), with the greatest changes occuring before bud elongation. The ability to predict changes in bud phenology and hardiness in relation to thermal time would be useful to growers in making frost management decisions. To establish a working growth model, canopy air and soil temperatures were continuously recorded in 1996, 1997, and 1998 in a cranberry bed (cv. Stevens) in central Wisconsin. In spring, samples of uprights were randomly collected from several locations within the bed and sorted according to a nine stage bud classification from tight bud to bloom. Controlled freezing tests were performed on uprights from the most advanced stages present that constituted 10% or more of a sample on a given date. Heat units were calculated from hourly canopy air temperatures. Despite the varied weather conditions over the3 years, a distinct relationship existed between the accumulation of heat units and the advancement of the crop. Spring 1998 was very early and resulted in the accumulation of more heat units before initial and advanced bud swell was observed compared to the other 2 years. Initial evaluation suggests that soil temperatures between 5 to 10 °C and photoperiod may play a role in modulating the effect of air temperatures. Further refinement of this model and the predictive value for frost hardiness changes will be discussed.