Plant microbiomes are critical to host adaptation and impact plant productivity and health. Root-associated microbiomes vary by soil and host genotype, but the contribution of these factors to community structure and metabolic potential has not been fully addressed. Here we characterize root microbial communities of two disparate agricultural crops grown in the same natural soil in a controlled and replicated experimental system. Metagenomic (genetic potential) analysis identifies a core set of functional genes associated with root colonization in both plant hosts, and metatranscriptomic (functional expression) analysis revealed that most genes enriched in the root zones are expressed. Root colonization requires multiple functional capabilities, and these capabilities are enriched at the community level. Differences between the root-associated microbial communities from different plants are observed at the genus or species level, and are related to root-zone environmental factors.