Plant growth and crop yield are negatively affected by a reduction in water availability. However, a clear understanding of how growth is regulated under non-lethal drought conditions is lacking. Recent advances in genomics, phenomics and transcriptomics allow in-depth analysis of natural variation. In this study, we conducted a detailed screening of leaf growth responses to mild drought in a worldwide collection of Arabidopsis thaliana accessions. The genetic architecture of the growth responses upon mild drought was investigated by subjecting the different leaf growth phenotypes to genome-wide association mapping and by characterizing the transcriptome of young developing leaves. Although no major effect locus was found to be associated with growth in mild drought, the transcriptome analysis delivered further insight into the natural variation of transcriptional responses to mild drought in a specific tissue. Co-expression analysis indicated the presence of gene clusters that co-vary over different genetic backgrounds, among others a cluster of genes with important regulatory functions in the growth response to osmotic stress. It was found that the occurrence of a mild drought stress response in leaves can be inferred with high accuracy across accessions based on the expression profile of 283 genes. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) on the expression data revealed that trans regulation seems to be more important than cis regulation in the transcriptional response to environmental perturbations.