This study dealt with a restoration project conducted at South-East New Territories Landfill in Hong Kong, in order to screen suitable tree and shrub species (both native and pioneer species) for revegetation. For engineered landfills, landfill gas migration and leachate contamination to the topsoil are rarely problematic, but the lack of nutrients and moisture and poor physical soil conditions may jeopardize potential woodland establishment. The growth performance of 25 woody plant species subjected to 12 different soil amelioration and seedlings planting methods was compared. The results showed that the general performance (mortality rate, apical height, crown diameter and basal diameter) of pioneer species (notably Acacia species) was much better than that of native species in all blocks of woodland mix and scrub mix. The notch planting method was effective in helping seedling roots to have better contact with soil for water uptake, which subsequently increased the survival rates of seedlings, leading to a better tree coverage. Soil ameliorations (horticultural soil with fertilizer and horse and pig manure) generally increased the seedling survival rate and improved plant growth. Tree coverage on all the plant trial blocks was mainly established by the three Acacia species. A planting distance of 1m was recommended for woodland establishment, and such dense seedlings planting would achieve a better tree coverage under a shorter period of time (than the distance of 3m). Difficulties in woodland establishment were discussed, and the strategies for achieving a better tree growth were recommended. Copyright (c) 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.