Eukaryotes and some prokaryotes have adapted to the 24 h day/night cycle by evolving circadian clocks, which now control very many aspects of metabolism, physiology and behaviour. Circadian clocks in plants are entrained by light and temperature signals from the environment. The relative timing of internal and external events depends upon a complex interplay of interacting rhythmic controls and environmental signals, including changes in the period of the clock. Several of the phytochrome and cryptochrome photoreceptors responsible have been identified. This review concentrates on the resulting patterns of entrainment and on the multiple proposed mechanisms of light input to the circadian oscillator components.