Over the past decade, we have witnessed a flourishing of novel strategies to enhance neuroplasticity and promote axon regeneration following spinal cord injury, and results from preclinical studies suggest that some of these strategies have the potential for clinical translation. Spinal cord injury leads to the disruption of neural circuitry and connectivity, resulting in permanent neurological disability. Recovery of function relies on augmenting neuroplasticity to potentiate sprouting and regeneration of spared and injured axons, to increase the strength of residual connections and to promote the formation of new connections and circuits. Neuroplasticity can be fostered by exploiting four main biological properties: neuronal intrinsic signalling, the neuronal extrinsic environment, the capacity to reconnect the severed spinal cord via neural stem cell grafts, and modulation of neuronal activity. In this Review, we discuss experimental evidence from rodents, nonhuman primates and patients regarding interventions that target each of these four properties. We then highlight the strengths and challenges of individual and combinatorial approaches with respect to clinical translation. We conclude by considering future developments and providing views on how to bridge the gap between preclinical studies and clinical translation.