The application of heterosis (hybrid vigor) has brought great success to plant breeding, particularly of hybrid rice, achieving significant yield increases. Attempts to explore the heterosis of inter-subspecific hybrids between indica and japonica rice, which result in even greater yield increases, have greatly increased in the past decades. However, because of the reduced seed setting rate in F1 hybrids as a result of increased reproductive isolation, the application of inter-subspecific hybrids in rice has slowed. Understanding the balance between heterosis and the reproductive isolation of inter-subspecific hybrids will facilitate the strategic design of inter-subspecific hybrid breeding. In this study, five indica and seven japonica rice varieties were chosen as the parental lines of a complete diallel mating design. Data from six group traits from all of the hybrids and inbred lines were collected. We found that the grain weight per plant, grain number per panicle, tiller per plant, thousand grain weight and plant height, which reflected increased heterosis, were associated with the genetic divergence index (GDI) of the parents. Meanwhile, owing to the reduced seed setting rate, which was also associated with the parents' GDI, the grain production of the hybrids was negatively affected. After analyzing the relationships between the GDI of indica-japonica parents and the grain weight per plant of the F1 hybrids, an ideal GDI value (0.37) for the two indica-japonica parents that could provide an optimal balance between the inter-subspecific heterosis and reproductive isolation was proposed. Our findings will help in the strategic design of an inter-subspecific hybrid rice breeding program by identifying the ideal indica and japonica parents for a hybrid combination to achieve hybrid rice with an optimal yield. This strategic design of an inter-subspecific hybrid rice breeding program will be time saving and cost effective.