Plant roots forage the soil for minerals whose concentrations can be orders of magnitude away from those required for plant cell function. Selective uptake in multicellular organisms critically requires epithelia with extracellular diffusion barriers. In plants, such a barrier is provided by the endodermis and its Casparian strips-cell wall impregnations analogous to animal tight and adherens junctions. Interestingly, the endodermis undergoes secondary differentiation, becoming coated with hydrophobic suberin, presumably switching from an actively absorbing to a protective epithelium. Here, we show that suberization responds to a wide range of nutrient stresses, mediated by the stress hormones abscisic acid and ethylene. We reveal a striking ability of the root to not only regulate synthesis of suberin, but also selectively degrade it in response to ethylene. Finally, we demonstrate that changes in suberization constitute physiologically relevant, adaptive responses, pointing to a pivotal role of the endodermal membrane in nutrient homeostasis.