Abstract The growth properties of the asymmetric budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae were analysed during spontaneous oscillations in continuous cultures at varying dilution rates D. The length of the oscillation period changed between 1.4 and 14 h in response to the decrease of dilution rate from 0.15 to 0.05 h −1. The distribution of parent and daughter cells in the population was determined microscopically after staining the bud scars and DNA. Most of the data obtained fits a theoretical population balance model assuming two-classes of subpopulations and integer ratios between the generation times of both classes. Some data has to be described by an extended population model assuming there is one parent and two daughter cell classes. How changes of dilution rate may cause an accidental switch of the mode of oscillation is demonstrated. Glucose consumption and metabolite production were measured off-line by enzymatic methods and gas exchange was monitored on-line. All these data of one period point to internal and external signals responsible for the synchronisation of the cell cycle.