The ability of cotton roots to grow downwards through a partially-wetted soil (Calcic Haploxeralf) profile toward a water source located beneath them was investigated. Plants were grown in 60-cm-high soil columms (diameter 10 cm), the bottom 15 cm of which was kept wet by frequent drip irrigation, while the upper 45 cm was wetted three times per week up to 20, 40, 60, 80 or 100% of pot capacity. Pot capacity was defined as the water content which gave uniform distribution within the pot and was at a soil matric potential (ψm) of −0.01 MPa. Plants were harvested 42 and 70 days after emergence (DAE). Root length density was reduced by decreased soil moisture content. At 42 DAE, density was reduced in the soil profile down to 36 cm. The density in the middle segment of the cylinder (24–36 cm) increased at the second harvest, from 0.1 to 0.35 cm · cm−3 at 40% and from 0.2 to 0.5 cm · cm−1 at 60% of pot capacity, respectively. A significant rise in root length density was found at all moisture contents above 20% in the two deepest soil segments. It was most marked at 40% where the rise was from 0.2 to 0.8 cm · cm−3, due to the development of secondary roots at the wetted bottom of the column. When only 20% of pot capacity was maintained in the top 45 cm of the profile, almost no roots reached the wetted soil volume, and root length density was very low. Hydrotropism, namely root growth through dry soil layers toward a wet soil layer was thus not apparent. Root dry weight per unit length decreased with increasing depth in the column at all moisture levels. However, the only significant decrease was, found between the top and the second soil segments and was due to thicker primary roots in the top segment. There was no clear relationship between length and dry weight of roots. Total plant dry weight and transpiration were reduced significantly only at 20% of pot capacity. Dry matter production by roots was less severely inhibited than that by shoots, under decreased moisture content in the soil profile. Leaf water potential decreased when the soil moisture content of the top 45 cm of the profile was reduced below 60% of pot capacity. It was concluded that even at soil moisture content equivalent to aΨm of 0.1 MPa, the rate of root growth was sufficient to reach a wetted soil layer at the bottom of the soil column, where the plant roots then proliferated. This implies that as long as the soil above the subsurface dripper is not very dry there is no real need for early surface irrigation.