The effect of phosphate on the surface charge and cadmium (Cd) adsorption was examined in seven soils that varied in their variable-charge components. The effect of phosphate on immobilization and phytoavailability of Cd from one of the soils, treated with various levels of Cd (0-10 mg Cd kg-1 soil), was further evaluated using mustard (Brassica juncea L.) plants. Cadmium immobilization in soil was evaluated by a chemical fractionation scheme. Addition of phosphate, as KH2PO4, increased the pH, negative charge and Cd adsorption by the soils. Of the seven soils examined, the three allophanic soils (i.e., Egmont, Patua and Ramiha) exhibited greater increases in phosphate-induced pH, negative charge and Cd2+ adsorption over the other four non-allophanic soils (i.e., Ballantrae, Foxton, Manawatu ad Tokomaru). Increasing addition of Cd enhanced Cd concentration in plants, resulting in decreased plant growth (i.e., phytotoxicity). Addition of phosphate effectively reduced the phytotoxicity of Cd. There was a significant inverse relationship between dry matter yield and Cd concentration in soil solution. Addition of phosphate decreased the concentration of the soluble + exchangeable Cd fraction but increased the concentration of inorganic-bound Cd fraction in soil. The phosphate-induced alleviation of Cd phytotoxicity can be attributed primarily to Cd immobilization due to increases in pH and surface charge.