The presence of velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) in crops is increasing in arid and semi-arid environments. Field experiments were conducted in Greece in 2009 and 2010 to determine the influence of velvetleaf emergence time and maize (Zea mays) hybrids with different growth rates on maize yield and velvetleaf growth and fecundity. Velvetleaf was uniformly seeded in order to emerge at the 1, 3, 5 and 7-leaf stage of maize (V1, V3, V5 and V7 growth stages, respectively). Velvetleaf biomass, canopy area and seed production were significantly affected by the date of velvetleaf emergence. Velvetleaf plants emerging just after maize (V1) produced 7–17 times lower seed number, compared with the V5 growth stage. Maximum maize grain yield loss ranged from 26 to 37% for early emerging velvetleaf, and less than 6% yield loss occurred from velvetleaf seedlings emerging at V7 growth stage. Maize hybrids with high initial growth rate seem to be more competitive than the other hybrids. The results of this study are essential in the development of an integrated weed management strategy for maize in semi-arid environments, since they highlight the importance of the careful selection of a competitive maize hybrid and avoidance of early velvetleaf emergence.