Plants can change soil biology, chemistry and structure in ways that alter subsequent plant growth. This process, referred to as plant–soil feedback (PSF), has been suggested to provide mechanisms for plant diversity, succession and invasion. Here we use three meta-analytical models: a mixed model and two Bayes models, one correcting for sampling dependence and one correcting for sampling and hierarchical dependence (delta-splitting model) to test these hypotheses. All three models showed that PSFs have medium to large negative effects on plant growth, and especially grass growth, the life form for which we had the most data. This supports the hypothesis that PSFs, through negative frequency dependence, maintain plant diversity, especially in grasslands. PSFs were also large and negative for annuals and natives, but the delta-splitting model indicated that more studies are needed for these results to be conclusive. Our results support the hypotheses that PSFs encourage successional replacements and plant invasions. Most studies were performed using monocultures of grassland species in greenhouse conditions. Future research should examine PSFs in plant communities, non-grassland systems and field conditions.