Loessal soil is one of the main cultivated soils in northwest China. Part of its distribution area was irrigated with industrial wastewater in past three decades. This caused heavy metal contamination in the soil. It had induced toxicity on crops and also threatened local human health for now. Based on a field plot experiment, effects of different Cu concentrations (from 45 to 2000 mg kg-1) in loessal soil on spinach plant growth and uptake of mineral nutrients (Zn, Fe, Mg, K, and Ca) by spinach were investigated. The Cu addition increased available concentrations of mineral nutrients in loessal soil and concentrations of Cu, Zn, Mg, and Ca in roots. The translocation of mineral nutrients from roots to leaves was inhibited under Cu addition, inducing their decrease in leaves. The EC10 and EC50 of soil Cu in relative dry weights of leaves were 240.33 mg kg-1 and 1205.04 mg kg-1, respectively. The PLS-PM analysis showed that available concentrations of nutrients in soil were only affected by Cu in soil positively, nutrients in roots were mainly affected by Cu in soil and Cu in leaves positively, nutrients in leaves were mainly affected by Cu in roots negatively, translocation of nutrients in spinach and plant growth were principally affected by Cu in leaves negatively, and the total effect of Cu in leaves on nutrients in roots and leaves, translocation of nutrients in spinach, and plant growth was the highest. Our results indicated that the phytotoxicity of Cu including spinach growth inhibition and mineral disorder in spinach was mainly affected by the Cu concentrations in leaves. © 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.