Three drought-tolerant tree species – Scots pine, sessile oak, and ponderosa pine – differ somewhat in their response to drought after stand density reductions. In this study, all species grew more each year on average when stand density was low rather than at maximum levels. Lower stand density reduced the drought susceptibility of Scots pine and sessile oak. Ponderosa pine, however, showed greater resistance and resilience to drought under higher, rather than lower, stand densities. Measures that reduce competition between trees are likely to help Scots pine and sessile oak adapt to a potentially drier and warmer climate, but such measures may have muted results compared to the effects of ponderosa pine’s adaptations to historically severely water-stressed conditions.