Plants are confronted on a regular basis with a range of environmental stresses. These include abiotic insults caused by, for example, extreme temperatures, altered water status or nutrients, and biotic stresses generated by a plethora of plant pathogens. Many studies have shown that the cellular responses to these environmental challenges are rather similar, which might be why plants resistant to one stress are sometimes cross-tolerant to others. To understand this phenomenon and to be able to take full advantage of it in agriculture, we must determine whether the individual biochemical pathways that make up the responses to each external stimulus are activated by unique, overlapping or redundant signalling systems. We discuss the potential role of signalling molecules, such as calcium and activated oxygen species, in underlying cross-tolerance.