Submergence is a severe form of stress for most plants. Lotus japonicus is a model legume with potential use in assisting breeding programs of closely related forage Lotus species. Twelve L. japonicus genotypes (10 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) and 2 parental accessions) with different constitutive shoot to root dry mass ratios (S:R) were subjected to 7 days of submergence in clear water and allowed to recover for two weeks post-submergence; a set of non-submerged plants served as controls. Relative growth rate (RGR) was used to indicate the recovery ability of the plants. Leaf relative water content (RWC), stomatal conductance (gs), greenness of basal and apical leaves, and chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm, as a measure of photoinhibition) were monitored during recovery, and relationships among these variables and RGR were explored across genotypes. The main results showed (i) variation in recovery ability (RGR) from short-term complete submergence among genotypes, (ii) a trade-off between growth during vs. after the stress indicated by a negative correlation between RGR during submergence and RGR post-submergence, (iii) an inverse relationship between RGR during recovery and S:R upon de-submergence, (iv) positive relationships between RGR at early recovery and RWC and gs, which were negatively related to S:R, suggesting this parameter as a good estimator of plant water balance post-submergence, (v) chlorophyll retention allowed fast recovery as revealed by the positive relationship between greenness of basal and apical leaves and RGR during the first recovery week, and (vi) full repair of the submergence-damaged photosynthetic apparatus occurred more slowly (second recovery week) than full recovery of plant water relations. The inclusion of these traits contributing to submergence recovery in L. japonicus should be considered to speed up the breeding process of the closely related forage Lotus spp. used in current agriculture.