[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It has been shown experimentally that local in-plane residual strain gradients occur around the root of spontaneously growing Sn whiskers on the surface of Sn coatings deposited on Cu. The strain distribution has been determined with synchrotron white beam micro Laue diffraction measurements. The observed in-plane residual strain gradients in combination with recently revealed out-of-plane residual strain-depth gradients [M. Sobiech et al., Appl. Phys. Lett. 93, 011906 (2008)] provide the driving forces for whisker growth.