The critical day length triggering photoperiodic flowering is set as an acute, accurate threshold in many short-day plants, including rice. Here, we show that, unlike the Arabidopsis florigen gene FT, the rice florigen gene Hd3a (Heading date 3a) is toggled by only a 30-min day-length reduction. Hd3a expression is induced by Ehd1 (Early heading date 1) expression when blue light coincides with the morning phase set by OsGIGANTEA(OsGI)-dependent circadian clocks. Ehd1 expression is repressed by both night breaks under short-day conditions and morning light signals under long-day conditions. Ghd7 (Grain number, plant height and heading date 7) was acutely induced when phytochrome signals coincided with a photosensitive phase set differently by distinct photoperiods and this induction repressed Ehd1 the next morning. Thus, two distinct gating mechanisms—of the floral promoter Ehd1 and the floral repressor Ghd7—could enable manipulation of slight differences in day length to control Hd3a transcription with a critical day-length threshold.