This paper examines adoption of drought tolerant maize varieties under rainfall stress in Malawi using correlated random effects Probit and Tobit models with control function approach. Drought tolerant maize is a promising technology that has the capacity to help smallholder farmers adapt to drought risks. Using 2009, 2012 and 2015 data from six districts, results show adoption has increased from 46% in 2009 to 59% in 2015. The likelihood of adoption is significantly increased by drought with early droughts having greater impact (31%) than late droughts (20%). Early droughts are also associated with an increased acreage of land allocated to drought tolerant maize and quantity of seed planted. However lagged drought variables appear to negatively affect adoption. The possible explanation is that the years preceding the surveys were associated with good rains such that farmers responded by buying less of drought tolerant maize anticipating similar rainfall pattern. Another important driver of adoption is the farm input subsidy programme. However, while access to subsidised seed increases both adoption and intensity of adoption, previous year’s access has a negative impact. This suggests that the increased adoption is due to availability of cheap seed as opposed to farmers’ previous exposure to the varieties. This may indicate limited awareness on the benefits of drought tolerant maize varieties. This is also consistent with extension visits positively affecting adoption. Good extension messages and promotion of drought tolerant maize varieties should be improved to allow farmers make informed decisions.