With growing populations and pressing environmental problems, future economies will be increasingly plant-based. Now is the time to reimagine plant science as a critical component of fundamental science, agriculture, environmental stewardship, energy, technology and healthcare. This effort requires a conceptual and technological framework to identify and map all cell types, and to comprehensively annotate the localization and organization of molecules at cellular and tissue levels. This framework, called the Plant Cell Atlas (PCA), will be critical for understanding and engineering plant development, physiology and environmental responses. A workshop was convened to discuss the purpose and utility of such an initiative, resulting in a roadmap that acknowledges the current knowledge gaps and technical challenges, and underscores how the PCA initiative can help to overcome them.