Zinc is an essential micronutrient for all living organisms and is involved in a plethora of processes including growth and development, and immunity. However, it is unknown if there is a common genetic and molecular basis underlying multiple facets of zinc function. Here we used natural variation in Arabidopsis thaliana to study the role of zinc in regulating growth. We identify allelic variation of the systemic immunity gene AZI1 as a key for determining root growth responses to low zinc conditions. We further demonstrate that this gene is important for modulating primary root length depending on the zinc and defence status. Finally, we show that the interaction of the immunity signal azelaic acid and zinc level to regulate root growth is conserved in rice. This work demonstrates that there is a common genetic and molecular basis for multiple zinc dependent processes and that nutrient cues can determine the balance of growth and immune responses in plants.