Polymer–ceramic composites obtained as the result of a mineralization process hold great promise for the future of tissue engineering. Simulated body fluids (SBFs) are widely used for the mineralization of polymer scaffolds. In this work an exhaustive study with the aim of optimizing the mineralization process on a poly(L-lactic acid) (PLLA) macroporous scaffold has been performed. We observed that when an air plasma treatment is applied to the PLLA scaffold its hydroxyapatite nucleation ability is considerably improved. However, plasma treatment only allows apatite deposition on the surface of the scaffold but not in its interior. When a 5 wt % of synthetic hydroxyapatite (HAp) nanoparticles is mixed with PLLA a more abundant biomimetic hydroxyapatite layer grows inside the scaffold in SBF. The morphology, amount, and composition of the generated biomimetic hydroxyapatite layer on the pores' surface have been analyzed. Large mineralization times are harmful to pure PLLA as it rapidly degrades and its elastic compression modulus significantly decreases. Degradation is retarded in the composite scaffolds because of the faster and extensive biomimetic apatite deposition and the role of HAp to control the pH. Mineralized scaffolds, covered by an apatite layer in SBF, were implanted in osteochondral lesions performed in the medial femoral condyle of healthy sheep. We observed that the presence of biomimetic hydroxyapatite on the pore's surface of the composite scaffold produces a better integration in the subchondral bone, in comparison to bare PLLA scaffolds. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part B: Appl Biomater 101B: 173–186, 2013.