© 2017, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany and the University of Milan. Greenhouse bioassays were used to examine the ability of selected strains of the rhizobacteria Sinorhizobium meliloti, Bacillus flexus and B. megaterium to solubilize phosphorus (P) and to affect growth promotion and phosphorus nutrition in maize. These bacterial strains were found to decrease the pH and solubilize some forms of insoluble P, such as tricalcium phosphate and hydroxyapatite, as well as to exhibit acid and alkaline phosphatase enzymatic activities in culture medium, properties that are possibly involved in P solubilization. Inoculation of the strains separately and as a consortium of the three bacteria (S. meliloti, B. flexus and B. megaterium) in P-deficient soil (4.33 w/v P) fertilized without P improved plant height, shoot and root dry weight, as well as P nutrition in the maize plants. Use of the B. flexus and B. megaterium strains separately and in a consortium positively affected several growth parameters and P nutrition in plants supplemented with insoluble P. No effect was observed when pots in which the seedlings were growing were supplied with soluble fertilizer. A second assay using a P-deficient soil (6.64 w/v P) showed that inoculation with the consortium of B. flexus and B. megaterium significantly increased growth and total P content in maize plants. A dose–response P fertilization experiment using sterile P-deficient soil led us to conclude that inoculation to soil of the mixture of B. flexus and B. megaterium may improve P nutrition and growth to a level previously attained by the addition of soluble P-fertilizer at 40 w/v P. A non-sterile experiment showed a beneficial response with B. megaterium but not with B. flexus. We propose utilizing these bacteria in P-deficient alkaline soils in future field trials in order to evaluate their potential as biofertilizers.