Day length is a key environmental cue regulating the timing of major developmental transitions in plants. For example, in perennial plants such as the long-lived trees of the boreal forest, exposure to short days (SD) leads to the termination of meristem activity and bud set (referred to as growth cessation). The mechanism underlying SD-mediated induction of growth cessation is poorly understood. Here we show that the AIL1-AIL4 (AINTEGUMENTALIKE) transcription factors of the AP2 family are the downstream targets of the SD signal in the regulation of growth cessation response in hybrid aspen trees. AIL1 is expressed in the shoot apical meristem and leaf primordia, and exposure to SD signal downregulates AIL1 expression. Downregulation of AIL gene expression by SDs is altered in transgenic hybrid aspen plants that are defective in SD perception and/or response, e.g. PHYA or FT overexpressors. Importantly, SD-mediated regulation of growth cessation response is also affected by overexpression or downregulation of AIL gene expression. AIL1 protein can interact with the promoter of the key cell cycle genes, e.g. CYCD3.2, and downregulation of the expression of D-type cyclins after SD treatment is prevented by AIL1 overexpression. These data reveal that execution of SD-mediated growth cessation response requires the downregulation of AIL gene expression. Thus, while early acting components like PHYA and the CO/FT regulon are conserved in day-length regulation of flowering time and growth cessation between annual and perennial plants, signaling pathways downstream of SD perception diverge, with AIL transcription factors being novel targets of the CO/FT regulon connecting the perception of SD signal to the regulation of meristem activity.