Sand burial, persistent seed bank and soil water content (SWC) are three factors that potentially can affect regeneration in sand dune plant populations. To evaluate the effects of these three factors on population regeneration of Eremosparton songoricum, a rare and endangered legume, we investigated seed germination, seedling emergence and seedling survival in greenhouse and controlled field experiments in different sand dunes microsites. Freshly matured seeds are physically dormant, and the highest germination was only 9.3 ± 5.8% at 25/10°C. Seed germination occurred at burial depths from 0 to 10 cm, but the maximum depth from which seedlings emerged was 6 cm; from 1 to 6 cm, the deeper the burial, the lower the percentage of seedling emergence. Only 36.2% of the total soil seed banks occurred at depths of 0–6 cm. For artificially sown seeds at different dune microsites, mean seedling emergence percentage was 6.8%. Of 150 seedlings that emerged in the field investigation at the study site, only those germinating in flat sandy areas survived, and mean survival percentage was only 2.0%. Thus, the proportion of non-dormant seeds in soil seed banks that developed into seedlings and survived to the end of the growing season was only 0.2%. Minimum SWC for seed germination, seedling emergence and seedling survival was 2.0%. During monitoring of emergent seedlings in the field, low seedling recruitment was at least partly due to the rate of root extension (1.6 ± 0.3 cm day−1) into the sandy soil, which was slower than that of the downward movement of plant-available moisture (2.8 ± 0.6 cm day−1). Thus, population regeneration under natural conditions rarely occurred via sexual reproduction, owing to the limited water resources available for seedling establishment. Rational field seeding practices, including manually scarified or dry stored seeds before sowing, sowing the seeds at right time and suitable place, are suggested for ecological restoration of endangered E. songoricum populations.