The root system is fundamentally important for plant growth and survival because of its role in water and nutrient uptake. Therefore, plants rely on modulation of root system architecture (RSA) to respond to a changing soil environment. Although RSA is a highly plastic trait and varies both between and among species, the basic root system morphology and its plasticity are controlled by inherent genetic factors. These mediate the modification of RSA, mostly at the level of root branching, in response to a suite of biotic and abiotic factors. Recent progress in the understanding of the molecular basis of these responses suggests that they largely feed through hormone homeostasis and signaling pathways. Novel factors implicated in the regulation of RSA in response to the myriad endogenous and exogenous signals are also increasingly isolated through alternative approaches such as quantitative trait locus analysis.