Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) transgenic cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.), including the introduced, indigenous Chinese non-hybrid and hybrid cotton, is spreading very rapidly in China. Agronomic and photosynthetic performance as well as the optimum plant density for planting Bt cotton may vary with genotypes. With three types of commercial Bt cotton varieties, two field experiments were conducted to study yield performance and leaf photosynthetic rate (Pn) during 2000 and 2001, and yield interaction between variety and plant density during 2001 and 2002 in Yellow River region in northern China. The first experiment showed that the indigenous Chinese Bt cotton significantly differed from the introduced Bt cotton (IBtC) in plant growth and yield components. As a result of manipulation of boll numbers, boll weight and lint percentage, there was no significant difference in lint yield between Chinese non-hybrid Bt cotton (CBtC) and the IBtC, but two Chinese hybrid Bt cotton (HBtC) varieties exhibited significantly higher lint yield than all other varieties in either 2000 or 2001. Hybrid cotton SCRC15 showed a one-peak curvilinear change in diurnal course of Pn throughout the growing season, while non-hybrid cotton 33B and SCRC16 exhibited severe mid-day depression in Pn in squaring, flowering or boll-setting stage. The second experiment showed that the main effect of plant population on lint yield was not significant, and yield difference among all treatments was derived from varieties and the interaction between plant density and variety. The optimal plant densities in terms of lint yield for the introduced, indigenous CBtC and HBtC genotypes were 6.0, 4.5 and 3.0 plants m−2 respectively.