The life cycle of flowering plants alternates between two heteromorphic generations: a diploid sporophytic generation and a haploid gametophytic generation. During the development of the plant reproductive lineages – the germlines – typically, single sporophytic (somatic) cells in the flower become committed to undergo meiosis. The resulting spores subsequently develop into highly polarized and differentiated haploid gametophytes that harbour the gametes. Recent studies have provided insights into the genetic basis and regulatory programs underlying cell specification and the acquisition of reproductive fate during both sexual reproduction and asexual (apomictic) reproduction. As we review here, these recent advances emphasize the importance of transcriptional, translational and post-transcriptional regulation, and the role of epigenetic regulatory pathways and hormonal activity.