The nonlinear response of initially imperfect composite plates with piezoelectric actuators is investigated. The nonlinearity is limited to the prebuckling regime, where higher order terms present in the strain energy expression can be neglected. The advantage of the electromechanical coupling is exploited in two ways. First, the in-plane piezoelectric stress stiffening effect is used to tailor a stress distribution that inherently increases the critical buckling loads of perfect composite plates by posing an optimization problem that efficiently handles eventual uncertainties involved in the application of mechanical loadings. Second, piezoelectric bending moments are applied in order to avoid or ameliorate the undesirable effects of initial imperfections. An actuation strategy, where the piezoelectric membrane forces and bending moments are decomposed via an appropriate selection of voltages applied to piezoelectric patches that are symmetrically bonded to the top and bottom surfaces of the plate, is proposed and shown to be effective.