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Propagation of patterns of gene expression through the cell cycle requires prompt restoration of epigenetic marks after the twofold dilution caused by DNA replication. Here we show that the transcriptional repressive mark H3K27me3 (histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation) is restored in replicating plant cells through DNA replication–coupled modification of histone variant H3.1. Plants evolved a mechanism for efficient K27 trimethylation on H3.1, which is essential for inheritance of the silencing memory from mother to daughter cells. We illustrate how this mechanism establishes H3K27me3-mediated silencing during the developmental transition to flowering. Our study reveals a mechanism responsible for transmission of H3K27me3 in plant cells through cell divisions, enabling H3K27me3 to function as an epigenetic mark.