Three species of woody ornamentals, Viburnum odoratissimum Ker Gawl, Ligustrum japonicum Thunb., and Rhaphiolepis indica Lindl. were transplanted from 3.8-L into 11.4-L containers and grown for 6 months while irrigated with overhead sprinkler irrigation. Irrigation regimes imposed consisted of an 18-mm-daily control and irrigation to saturation based on 20%, 40%, 60%, and 80% deficits in plant available water [management allowed deficits (MAD)]. Based on different evaluation methods, recommendations of 20%, 20%, and 40% MAD are supported for V. odoratissimum, L. japonica, and R. indica, respectively, for commercial production. Comparisons of plant growth rates, supplied water, and conversion of transpiration to shoot biomass are discussed among irrigation regimes within each species. Comparisons of cumulative actual evapotranspiration (ETA) to either shoot dry mass or canopy volume were linear and highly correlated. Results indicated there were minimum cumulative ETA volumes required for plants to obtain a specific size. This suggests that irrigation regimes that restrict daily ETA will prolong production times and may increase supplemental irrigation requirements. Thus the hypothesis that restrictive irrigation regimes will reduce irrigation requirements to produce container plants is false due to the strong relationship between cumulative ETA and plant size.