Immune systems distinguish “self” from “nonself” to maintain homeostasis and must differentially gate access to allow colonization by potentially beneficial, nonpathogenic microbes. Plant roots grow within extremely diverse soil microbial communities but assemble a taxonomically limited root-associated microbiome. We grew isogenic Arabidopsis thaliana mutants with altered immune systems in a wild soil and also in recolonization experiments with a synthetic bacterial community. We established that biosynthesis of, and signaling dependent on, the foliar defense phytohormone salicylic acid is required to assemble a normal root microbiome. Salicylic acid modulates colonization of the root by specific bacterial families. Thus, plant immune signaling drives selection from the available microbial communities to sculpt the root microbiome.