The present study described the relationship between growth and soil physico-chemical properties in Eucalyptus camaldulensis (Myrtaceae) and Pinus caribaea (Pinaceae), two important species in Nigerian forest recovery programs. The study sites were located in a 17-year-old plantation in a Northern Nigeria forest reserve. The soils at the study sites were nutrient poor compared with other plantations. Growth of E. camaldulensis was positively correlated with exchangeable K content in soils 0–20 cm deep, and negatively correlated with total N and exchangeable Na in soils 20–150 cm deep. Growth of P. caribaea was positively correlated with available P in soils 0–20 cm deep, and volumetric water content in soils 20–150 cm deep. Soils in the top layers were very hard and plinthite layers were well developed at shallow soil depths at most sites. E. camaldulensis exhibited a comparatively high survival rate, and its growth was comparable to that in other plantations. However, the survival rates of P. caribaea were low and its growth was lower than that in other plantations. The survival rate of E. camaldulensis was lower at sites where plinthite layers were found within 50.8 cm of the surface. These results indicated that E. camaldulensis is suitable for afforestation in Northern Nigeria. However, it is not recommended for sites where the plinthite layer occurs at shallow soil depths.