The influence of water deprivation on potted apple trees (Malus domestica Borkh.) was investigated. Biochemical responses including ascorbic acid, glutathione (GSH), tocopherols, chlorophylls, carotenoids, free amino acids, and soluble carbohydrates were measured in leaves of diploid 'Elstar' and triploid 'Jonagold Wilmuta' subjected to progressive drought. Leaf water potential was chosen to be the primary indicator of water stress in tested plants. Time courses of measured biochemical parameters showed that mild drought did not significantly affect the chosen stress indicators. Moderate drought increased the concentrations of ascorbic acid, total GSH, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin and alpha-tocopherol, indicating the adaptation to oxidative stress in apple trees. Moderate drought also increased concentration of soluble carbohydrates, mostly due to increased sorbitol concentration. Severe drought negatively affected vitality of apple trees, and caused a decrease in sorbitol concentration. Severe drought also caused decreases in ascorbic acid, total GSH, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and chlorophyll concentrations, which, together with the increase in oxidised GSH concentration, indicated severe damage due to oxidative stress. Severe drought increased free amino acid concentration, which was probably the result of increased proteolysis. Zeaxanthin concentration remained high even in leaves of apple trees subjected to severe drought stress. The results were similar for both tested apple cultivars.