In recent years, research in invasion biology has focused increasing attention on understanding the role of phenology in shaping plant invasions. Multiple studies have found non-native species that tend to flower distinctly early or late in the growing season, advance more with warming or have shifted earlier with climate change compared with native species. This growing body of literature has focused on patterns of phenological differences, but there is a need now for mechanistic studies of how phenology contributes to invasions. To do this, however, requires understanding how phenology fits within complex functional trait relationships. Towards this goal, we review recent literature linking phenology with other functional traits, and discuss the role of phenology in mediating how plants experience disturbance and stress-via climate, herbivory and competition-across the growing season. Because climate change may alter the timing and severity of stress and disturbance in many systems, it could provide novel opportunities for invasion-depending upon the dominant climate controller of the system, the projected climate change, and the traits of native and non-native species. Based on our current understanding of plant phenological and growth strategies-especially rapid growing, early-flowering species versus later-flowering species that make slower-return investments in growth-we project optimal periods for invasions across three distinct systems under current climate change scenarios. Research on plant invasions and phenology within this predictive framework would provide a more rigorous test of what drives invader success, while at the same time testing basic plant ecological theory. Additionally, extensions could provide the basis to model how ecosystem processes may shift in the future with continued climate change.