Accumulating evidence indicates that the FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) protein is the mobile floral signal known as florigen. A rice FT homolog, Heading date 3a (Hd3a), is transported from the phloem to shoot apical cells, where it interacts with 14–3–3 proteins and transcription factor OsFD1 to form a florigen activation complex (FAC) that activates a rice homolog of the floral identity gene APETALA1. Recent studies showed that florigen has roles in plant development beyond flowering; however, the exact nature of these roles is not well understood. It is not clear whether FT is transported to organs outside the shoot apex, and whether FAC formation is required for processes other than flowering. We show here that the Hd3a protein accumulates in axillary meristems to promote branching, and that FAC formation is required. Analysis of transgenic plants revealed that Hd3a promotes branching through lateral bud outgrowth. Hd3a protein produced in the phloem reached the axillary meristem in the lateral bud, and its transport was required for promotion of branching. Moreover, mutant Hd3a proteins defective in FAC formation but competent with respect to transport did not promote branching. Finally, we show that Hd3a promotes branching independently from strigolactone and FC1, a transcription factor that inhibits branching in rice. Together, these results suggest that Hd3a functions as a mobile signal for branching in rice.