Aims Study on the relationships between plant functional traits and soil water content is important for revealing potential impact of vegetation dynamics on soil water dynamics. The objective of this study was to understand the change of soil water content (Ws) through forest succession. MethodsThe study sites are located in Tiantong, Nanshan and Shuangfeng Mountains in eastern Zhejiang Province. We measured 10 functional traits for common plant species andWsin forest plotsrepresentative of three successional stages of evergreen broadleaved forests. The Pearson correlation and the stepwise regression were conducted to determine the quantitative relationships between plant functional traits andWs. Important findings Tree height (H), crown area (CA) and leaf dry matter content (LDMC) were significantly higher for species at intermediate-and late-successional stages than for species at early-successional stage. In con-trast, max net photosynthetic rate (Pmax) and transpiration rate (Tr) of dominant species declined with forest suc-cession. TheWs in the surface soil layer (0–20 cm) increased significantly, whereasWs in the subsurface soil layer (20–40 cm) did not significantly change through forest succession. With respect to the surface soil layer,Ws was positively correlated with each ofH, CA andLDMC, but negatively correlated with each ofPmax andTr. With re-spect to the subsurface soil layer,Ws positively correlated withCAonly, and negatively correlated with each of Pmax, stomatal conductance (Cond) andTr. Variation in soil water content with forest succession could be ex-plained mostly byH, CA, LDMC, Pmax,Cond andTr, and the ratio of crown depth to tree height (CD/TH) was mostly sensitive to the change of soil water content during forest succession.