In North-East Finland, severe problems have been encountered in the natural regeneration of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) on sites where regeneration through site preparation usually is quite successful. We hypothesized that in that area understory vegetation, especially heather (Calluna vulgaris), crowberry (Empetrum hermaphroditum), mosses and lichens, could play a key role in this pattern. We found that in general, ground- and field-layer vegetation tends to be in a negative relationship with the establishment, growth and survival of pine seedlings. Some positive relationships were also observed. Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idea) tended to improve seedling height growth. Heather, instead, seemed to have a contradictory role. It was positively related to seedling establishment but negatively to seedling growth. This dual role raises further questions about the primary reasons for the regeneration problems in North-East Finland. All in all, our results suggest that conventional methods of forest regeneration in these kinds of areas are not always effective enough and additional measures are needed. These might include severe prescribed burning along with site preparation in order to decrease the impact of the dominant ground- and field-layer vegetation on the success of Scots pine regeneration.