Plants have adapted to the diurnal light-dark cycle by establishing elaborate transcriptional programs that coordinate many metabolic, physiological, and developmental responses to the external environment. These transcriptional programs have been studied in only a few species, and their function and conservation across algae and plants is currently unknown. We performed a comparative transcriptome analysis of the diurnal cycle of nine members of Archaeplastida, and we observed that, despite large phylogenetic distances and dramatic differences in morphology and lifestyle, diurnal transcriptional programs of these organisms are similar. Expression of genes related to cell division and the majority of biological pathways depends on the time of day in unicellular algae but we did not observe such patterns at the tissue level in multicellular land plants. Hence, our study provides evidence for the universality of diurnal gene expression and elucidates its evolutionary history among different photosynthetic eukaryotes.