Seedling root systems are colonized heavily by asymbiotic soil bacteria, many of which have the potential to influence plant growth significantly. A heterogeneous group of these microorganisms is well known for their ability to colonize roots and stimulate growth of agricultural plant species, sometimes doubling seedling biomass accumulation only a few weeks after inoculation, but more usually resulting in less spectacular biomass gains (e.g., 15%-30% greater than uninoculated controls within a growing season). Plant growth promoting soil bacteria may exert such effects through a variety of mechanisms, and include microorganisms that stimulate seedling emergence or infection by symbiotic fungi and bacteria. Other plant beneficial soil bacteria possess biological control activity or are capable of transforming plants genetically. Inoculation of tree seedlings with such bacteria before outplanting would be an inexpensive, environmentally benign, and easily applied nursery treatment, but comparatively little work has been performed with these microorganisms in forestry. Recent results with various tree species, however, indicate that seedling performance can be significantly enhanced through bacterial inoculation of root systems: pine and spruce biomass increased 32%-49% 1 yr after inoculation and outplanting at a reforestation site. In addition, infection by desired species of ectomycorrhizal fungi can also be enhanced by inoculation with certain strains of root colonizing bacteria. Results from studies performed with beneficial asymbiotic tree root associated bacteria are reviewed in this article in relation to the possible uses of such microorganisms for artificial forest regeneration. For. Sci 43(1):99-112.