The aerial structure of higher plants derives from cells at the tip of the stem, in the shoot apical meristem (SAM). Throughout the life of a plant, the SAM produces stem tissues and lateral organs, and also regenerates itself. For correct growth, the plant must maintain a constant flow of cells through the meristem, where the input of dividing pluripotent stem cells offsets the output of differentiating cells. This flow depends on extracellular signaling within the SAM, governed by a spatial regulatory feedback loop that maintains a reservoir of stem cells, and on factors that prevent meristem cells from differentiating prematurely. The terminating floral meristem incorporates the spatial regulation scheme into a temporal regulation pathway involving flower patterning factors.