The aim of this research was to determine whether shoot growth could be regulated and plant quality improved through two controlled irrigation techniques: Regulated Deficit Irrigation (RDI) or Partial Root Drying (PRD). An additional benefit of such techniques is that they would also improve the efficiency of irrigation application and reduce the volume of water used on commercial nurseries. Results from two ornamental woody plant species (Cotinus and Forsythia) demonstrated that plant quality could be significantly improved when RDI was applied at ≤ 60% of potential evapo-transpiration (ETp). Stomatal closure and reduced leaf and internode growth rates were associated with both the RDI and PRD techniques, but reduced leaf water potential was only recorded in the RDI system. Changes in xylem sap pH and ABA concentrations were correlated with changes in shoot physiology, and thought to be generated by those roots exposed to drying soil. By adopting such controlled irrigation systems on commercial holdings it is estimated that water consumption could be reduced by 50 to 90%.