Tip growth is employed throughout the plant kingdom. Our understanding of tip growth has benefited from modern tools in molecular genetics, which have enabled the functional characterization of proteins mediating tip growth. Here we first discuss the evolutionary role of tip growth in land plants and then describe the prominent model tip-growth systems, elaborating on some advantages and disadvantages of each. Next we review the organization of tip-growing cells, the role of the cytoskeleton, and recent developments concerning the physiological basis of tip growth. Finally, we review advances in the understanding of the extracellular signals that are known to guide tip-growing cells.