The molecular mechanisms underlying the trade-off between plant innate immunity and steroid-mediated growth are controversial. Here, we report that activation of the transcription factor BZR1 is required and sufficient for suppression of immune signaling by brassinosteroids (BR). BZR1 induces the expression of several WRKY transcription factors that negatively control early immune responses. In addition, BZR1 associates with WRKY40 to mediate the antagonism between BR and immune signaling. We reveal that BZR1-mediated inhibition of immunity is particularly relevant when plant fast growth is required, such as during etiolation. Thus, BZR1 acts as an important regulator mediating the trade-off between growth and immunity upon integration of environmental cues. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00983.001.