Crop plants have been used as mimic weeds to substitute for real weeds in competition studies. These mimic weeds have the advantages of availability of seed, uniform germination and growth, and the potential to confer better experimental controllability and repeatability. However, the underlying assumption that the competitive effects of mimic weeds are similar to real weeds has not been tested. We compared a range of morphological traits (plant height, node and leaf number, leaf area, leaf size, and dry weight) between the mimic weeds and real weeds: Japanese millet vs. junglerice, mungbean vs. bladder ketmia, and common sunflower vs. fierce thornapple. The impact of these mimic and real weeds on cotton was also assessed. There were similarities and differences between the mimic and real weeds, but impact on cotton lint yield was most closely associated with weed height and dry weight at mid-season. Mimic weeds may be satisfactorily substituted for real weeds in competition experiments where seasonal and environmental conditions are not limiting, such as with fully irrigated cotton, provided the plants have similar dry weight and height at mid-season. Alternatively, one can account for the differences in dry weight and height. We define here a generalized relationship estimating the yield loss of high-yielding, irrigated cotton from weed competition over a range of weed dry weights and heights, allowing extrapolation from the results with mimic weeds to the competitive effects of a range of weeds.