The physiological and morphological responses of two semi-dwarf lowland rice cultivars to transient drought were studied in three greenhouse experiments. These responses were related to root-zone soil water status for use in a rainfed-rice simulation model. Results were very similar for both varieties. Drought responses in young plants occurred at a lower soil water status than in older plants. The first observed effect in a drought period in the vegetative phase was a decline in leaf expansion rate compared to well-watered plants. Leaf expansion stopped completely with root-zone soil water pressure potential h in the range -50 to -250 kPa, depending on crop age and growing season. The rate of transpiration, corrected for differences in LAI, remained roughly equal to that of well-watered plants in the range 0 > h > -100 kPa, depending on crop age. As the soil water status declined further, relative transpiration rate decreased with increasing values of log(&unknown;h&unknown;), following a logistic function. Leaf rolling and early senescence started at h < -200 kPa or lower and were linearly related with log (&unknown;h&unknown;). Yield differences between plants that were transiently stressed in the early vegetative phase and well-watered plants were not significant. However, flowering and maturity were delayed. Severe drought in the reproductive phase resulted in large yield reductions, mainly caused by an increase in the percentage of unfilled grains and also in grain weight.