This study was conducted in a riparian buffer bordering a 1 km segment of a headwater stream crossing a pasture site located in southern Québec (Canada). Three species were planted (black walnut (Juglans nigra L.), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa Michx.), and eastern white pine (Pinus strobus L.)) with three vegetation treatments (control, herbicide (one application/year for 3 years), and black plastic mulch)). The main objective was to determine to which extent herbicide and plastic mulch, used with species having different ecological characteristics, affect tree growth and soil nutrient status in riparian buffers. Survival was high (>93%) for all species in all treatments. In the control (no vegetation treatment), growth was similar among species. Black walnut had the strongest growth response to herbicide and plastic mulch, and white pine had the weakest. For all species, growth was similar in the herbicide and the plastic mulch treatments. During the fifth growing season, plastic mulch increased soil nitrate and phosphorus compared to the herbicide treatment. In the plastic mulch treatment, higher soil nitrate supply was observed for species that preferentially uptake ammonium (black walnut and white pine). Soil nutrient supplies were similar between the control and herbicide treatments. Despite the more favorable nutritional conditions it provides, permanent black plastic mulching does not provide higher growth benefits after 5 years than a 3-year herbicide treatment. The high soil nitrate supply observed in mulched black walnut and mulched white pine may indicate a limited capacity for nitrate phytoremediation by these species.