Reductions in leaf growth are a commonly observed response to ultraviolet radiation, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly defined. This study examined the response of leaves exposed to a UV environment across a range of organizational scales, including leaf expansion rate, epidermal cell size and number, biomechanical properties, leaf–water relations and activity of cell-wall peroxidases. Two experimental approaches were used; Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) plants were propagated under (a) supplementary UV-B (9 kJ m−2 day−1) in controlled environment (CE) conditions, and (b) field conditions, where plants were placed under three horticultural films with differing UV transmissions. In both experiments, UV-B caused the greatest reductions in leaf expansion and final leaf size, with some reductions attributable to UV-A wavelengths. In supplementary UV-B conditions, adaxial cell size was reduced, while in field plants, both cell size and cell number were lower in an increased UV environment, as was the case with abaxial cells in CE plants. Although leaf turgor and leaf extensibility were not affected by UV wavelengths, breaking strain of leaf tissue was decreased under supplementary UV-B. Cell-wall peroxidase activity was increased in both supplementary UV conditions and in the field, where only a zero UV environment showed no upregulation of cell-wall peroxidase.