Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L. cv. H14) seedlings were raised in soil of differing soil water content in specially designed pots in which the roots had access to freely available water and nutrients located 2.5 cm below the base of the soil core. The time for root emergence from the soil core and the rate of root growth were measured daily from sowing to harvest. The root and shoot dry weight and leaf water potential were measured at the final harvest 16 days after sowing. As soil water content decreased, the root emerged from the soil earlier and the initial rate of root elongation was faster. In spite of the availability of freely available water, the plants in the soil at low water contents had significantly lower leaf water potentials than those in soil at high water contents. The root: shoot ratio increased as the soil water content decreased. This arose from an absolute increase in root weight, with shoot weight not being significantly affected.