Successful forest restoration requires planting quality seedlings with optimal growth potential. Thus, nurseries need to produce seedlings with plant attributes that favor the best chance of successful establishment once they are field planted. From the mid-twentieth century on, research foresters have critically examined plant attributes that confer improved seedling growth under various restoration site conditions. This review examines the value of commonly measured seedling quality attributes (i.e., height, diameter, root mass, shoot-to-root ratio, drought resistance, freezing tolerance, nutrient status, root growth potential, and root electrolyte leakage) that have been recognized as important in explaining why seedlings with improved attributes have better growth after planting. Seedlings with plant attributes that fall within the appropriate range of values can increase the speed with which they overcome planting stress, initiate growth, and become “coupled” to the forest restoration site, thereby ensuring successful seedling establishment. Although planting high quality seedlings does not guarantee successful seedling establishment, it increases chances for successful establishment and growth.