Mitochondrial respiration in plants provides energy for biosynthesis, and its balance with photosynthesis determines the rate of plant biomass accumulation. We describe recent advances in our understanding of the mitochondrial respiratory machinery of cells, including the presence of a classical oxidative phosphorylation system linked to the cytosol by transporters, discussed alongside nonphosphorylating (and, therefore, non-energy conserving) bypasses that alter the efficiency of ATP synthesis and play a role in oxidative stress responses in plants. We consider respiratory regulation in the context of the contrasting roles mitochondria play in different tissues, from photosynthetic leaves to nutrient-acquiring roots. We focus on the molecular nature of this regulation at transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels that allow the respiratory apparatus of plants to help shape organ development and the response of plants to environmental stress. We highlight the challenges for future research considering spatial and temporal changes of respiration in response to changing climatic conditions.