Multicellular organisms use cell-surface receptor kinases to sense and process extracellular signals. Many plant receptor kinases are activated by the formation of ligand-induced complexes with shape-complementary co-receptors1. The best-characterized co-receptor is BRASSINOSTEROID INSENSITIVE 1-ASSOCIATED KINASE 1 (BAK1), which associates with numerous leucine-rich repeat receptor kinases (LRR-RKs) to control immunity, growth and development2. Here we report key regulatory events that control the function of BAK1 and, more generally, LRR-RKs. Through a combination of phosphoproteomics and targeted mutagenesis, we identified conserved phosphosites that are required for the immune function of BAK1 in Arabidopsis thaliana. Notably, these phosphosites are not required for BAK1-dependent brassinosteroid-regulated growth. In addition to revealing a critical role for the phosphorylation of the BAK1 C-terminal tail, we identified a conserved tyrosine phosphosite that may be required for the function of the majority of Arabidopsis LRR-RKs, and which separates them into two distinct functional classes based on the presence or absence of this tyrosine. Our results suggest a phosphocode-based dichotomy of BAK1 function in plant signalling, and provide insights into receptor kinase activation that have broad implications for our understanding of how plants respond to their changing environment.