Photoperiodic control of the phase transition from vegetative to reproductive growth is critical for land plants. The GIGANTEA (GI) and FLAVIN-BINDING KELCH REPEAT F-BOX1 (FKF1) protein complex controls this process in angiosperms. However, little is known about how plants evolved this regulatory system. Here, we report that orthologues of GI and FKF1 are present in a basal plant, the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha, and describe the molecular interaction between their products. Knockout of either the GI or FKF1 orthologue completely abolishes the long-day-dependent growth-phase transition in M. polymorpha. Overexpression of either gene promotes growth-phase transition, even under short-day conditions. Introduction of the GI orthologue partially rescues the late-flowering phenotype of the Arabidopsis thaliana gi mutant. Our findings suggest that plants had already acquired the GI-FKF1 system to regulate growth-phase transition when they colonized land, and that this system was co-opted from gametophyte to sporophyte generation during evolution.