Episodes of drought stress in upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) can be detrimental to vegetative growth, yield characteristics, and fiber quality, depending on the specific growth stage drought occurs. Growth, yield, fiber quality, and boll distribution were compared among four cotton cultivars subjected to four growth-stage specific drought periods that were repeated in three studies over 2 yr in West Texas. Drought timings occurred at pinhead square, early bloom, and two periods of stress during peak bloom. Both years of the study were hot and dry, with minimal rainfall during the episodic drought treatments. Yield was not significantly different among cultivars, nor was there a significant cultivar × irrigation interaction related to cotton yield. However, there were differential effects on fiber quality among cultivars subjected to the different episodic drought timings. Drought stress during squaring resulted in significantly shorter plants with fewer nodes; however, yield was comparable to the highest yields among the other drought stress treatments, and fiber quality parameters were significantly improved compared to all other treatments except full irrigation. The early flowering growth stage was the most sensitive to drought stress and produced the lowest yields, the lowest fruit retention, and poor fiber quality. Drought events at peak bloom resulted in similar yield losses to those at squaring, but poorer fiber quality. This information may be crucial for producers who either have competing demands for water resources or who want to maximize profits or resources after the occurrence of a drought episode.