It has previously been demonstrated that cell shape can influence commitment of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hBMCs) to adipogenic, osteogenic, chondrogenic, and other lineages. Human periosteum-derived cells (hPDCs) exhibit multipotency similar to hBMCs, but hPDCs may offer enhanced potential for osteogenesis and chondrogenesis given their apparent endogenous role in bone and cartilage repair in vivo. Here, we examined whether hPDC differentiation is regulated by adhesive and mechanical cues comparable to that reported for hBMC differentiation. When cultured in the appropriate induction media, hPDCs at high cell seeding density demonstrated enhanced levels of adipogenic or chondrogenic markers as compared with hPDCs at low cell seeding density. Cell seeding density correlated inversely with projected area of cell spreading, and directly limiting cell spreading with micropatterned substrates promoted adipogenesis or chondrogenesis while substrates promoting cell spreading supported osteogenesis. Interestingly, cell seeding density influenced differentiation through both changes in cell shape and non-shape-mediated effects: density-dependent adipogenesis and chondrogenesis were regulated primarily by cell shape whereas non-shape effects strongly influenced osteogenic potential. Inhibition of cytoskeletal contractility by adding the Rho kinase inhibitor Y27632 further enhanced adipogenic differentiation and discouraged osteogenic differentiation of hPDCs. Together, our results suggest that multipotent lineage decisions of hPDCs are impacted by cell adhesive and mechanical cues, though to different extents than hBMCs. Thus, future studies of hPDCs and other primary stem cell populations with clinical potential should consider varying biophysical metrics for more thorough optimization of stem cell differentiation.