There is growing interest in using multi-species plantation systems when undertaking reforestation for timber production. Such plantations can have ecological and socio-economic advantages over those of traditional monocultures. Despite increasing evidence about the functional advantages of increasing species richness in reforestation, there are few silvicultural guidelines to assist in the design and management of multi-species plantings. This paper presents the results of a systematic assessment of previous studies of mixed-species plantings with a particular focus on their advantages and disadvantages for meeting the needs of rural smallholders and communities in tropical regions. Research on mixed-species plantations has increased in recent years. Many earlier studies were concerned with the capacity of mixed-species plantings to improve productivity or the nutritional impacts of mixtures. Many of these studies emphasised young plantations and mixtures of a few relatively fast-growing Acacia, Eucalyptus and Pinus species. More recent studies have explored a wider range of outcomes arising from using mixtures including on the supply of ecosystem services. Issues deserving further study concern the economic advantages or disadvantages of mixed-species plantations, how these plantations might be designed to suit various environmental and socio-economic situations, and how to manage older mixed-species plantations where the interactions between species may be different to those in younger plantations. There is also a need to explore how increased species richness may affect the capacity of new plantations to withstand damage from insect pests or disturbances such as storms or wildfire.