Improving cotton yield under limited water supply needs to deeper understanding of the plant's response and adapting strategies to improve their tolerance. Effects of limited water conditions on ten cotton genotypes (Gossypium hirsutum L.) were examined in a field experiment to evaluate their tolerance level and explore time depending changes in canopy temperature and leaf greenness as indirect determinations of leaf water-status and chlorophyll density. Plant height shortened (15%), dry matter accumulation inhibited (36%), ball number (35%) and eventually lint yield (35%) decreased of all cotton genotypes since irrigation amount decreased 32% under limited watering conditions (LWC). Significant genotypic variation in tolerance level and yielding capacity under LWC were found among genotypes. Leaf tissues accumulated higher proline (stress-related amino acid) to adapt lower water potential conditions while canopy temperature depression (CTD) reversibly decreased and SPAD values were increased. A strong correlation between relative changes in CTD and SPAD values and a significant variation in ability of the cotton genotypes to recover CTD under limited water conditions were found. Our results also suggested that the higher ability to recover CTD of cotton leaves was associated with lower total dry weight reduction and water stress susceptibility under limited water conditions.