The phytochrome family of photoreceptors are potent regulators of plant development, affecting a broad range of responses throughout the plant life cycle, including hypocotyl elongation, leaf expansion and apical dominance. The plant hormone auxin has previously been linked to these phytochrome-mediated responses; however, these studies have not identified the molecular mechanisms that underpin such extensive phytochrome and auxin cross-talk. In this paper, we show that phytochrome regulates the emergence of lateral roots, at least partly by manipulating auxin distribution within the seedling. Thus, shoot-localized phytochrome is able to act over long distances, through manipulation of auxin, to regulate root development. This work reveals an important role for phytochrome as a coordinator of shoot and root development, and provides insights into how phytochrome is able to exert such a powerful effect on growth and development. This new link between phytochrome and auxin may go some way to explain the extensive overlap in responses mediated by these two developmental regulators.