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Understanding of the response of tropical and temperate maize (Zea mays L.) to drought is the first step for tolerant temperate maize improvement. Eight maize hybrids were used to investigate physiology responses under drought stress, four of them were tropical maize and the others were temperate maize. Results showed that there were different drought tolerances but similar trends in both tropical maize and temperate maize. Gas exchange parameters revealed different strategies of maize under the stress. In our study, most of the temperate hybrids maintained open stomata to keep a higher photosynthesis rate at the beginning of stress, while the other hybrids decreased stomatal conductance. Compared to temperate maize, the tropical maize had higher antioxidase activity and greater physiological parameter variation among hybrids. KS5731 and ZD309 had stronger drought resistance among tropical and temperate maize hybrids separately. Tolerant hybrids maintained active photosynthesis, have higher osmotic adjustment ability and antioxidase activities but lower malonaldehyde content than the sensitive ones. Our results led to a better understanding of the physiological responses of tropical and temperate maize plants to drought stress and may provide an insight of breeding for drought resistance in maize.