SAG21/AtLEA5 belongs to the late embryogenesis-associated (LEA) protein family. Although it has been implicated in growth and redox responses, its precise roles remain obscure. To address this problem, we characterized root and shoot development and response to biotic stress in SAG21/AtLEA5 over-expressor (OEX) and antisense (AS) lines. AS lines exhibited earlier flowering and senescence and reduced shoot biomass. Primary root length was reduced in AS lines, as was the number of laterals relative to the primary root. Root hair number was unchanged but root hair length was proportional to SAG21/AtLEA5 expression level, with longer root hairs in OEX lines and shorter root hairs in AS, relative to wild type. Growth of the fungal nectroph, Botrytis cinerea and of a virulent bacterial pathogen (Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato) was affected by SAG21/AtLEA5 expression; however, growth of an avirulent P.syringae strain was unaffected. A SAG21/AtLEA5-YFP fusion was localized to mitochondria, raising the intriguing possibility that SAG21 interacts with proteins involved in mitochondrial ROS signalling, which in turn, impacts on root development and pathogen responses.