Shoot branching is a highly plastic developmental process in which axillary buds are formed in the axil of each leaf and may subsequently be activated to give branches. Three classes of plant hormones, auxins, cytokinins and strigolactones (or strigolactone derivatives) are central to the control of bud activation. These hormones move throughout the plant forming a network of systemic signals. The past decade brought great progress in understanding the mechanisms of shoot branching control. Biological and computational studies have led to the proposal of two models, the auxin transport canalization-based model and the second messenger model, which provide mechanistic explanations for apical dominance.