Management of forest genetic resources requires experimental data related to the genetic variation of the species and populations under different climatic conditions. Foresters also demand to know how the main selective drivers will influence the adaptability of the genetic resources. To assess the inter- and intraspecific variation and plasticity in seedling drought tolerance at a relevant genetic resource management scale, we tested the changes in growth and biomass allocation of seedlings of Pinus oocarpa, P. patula and P. pseudostrobus under two contrasting watering regimes. We found general significant intraspecific variation and intraspecific differences in plasticity, since both population and watering by population interaction were significant for all three species. All the species and populations share a common general avoidance mechanism (allometric adjustment of shoot/root biomass). However, the intraspecific variation and differences in phenotypic plasticity among populations modify the adaptation strategies of the species to drought. Some of the differences are related to the climatic conditions of the location of origin. We confirmed that even at reduced geographical scales, Mexican pines present differences in the response to water stress. The differences among species and populations are relevant in afforestation programs as well as in genetic conservation activities.