Thymidine kinase (TK) is a key enzyme of the salvage pathway that recycles thymidine nucleosides to produce deoxythymidine triphosphate. Here, we identified the single TK of maize (Zea mays), denoted CPTK1, as necessary in the replication of the plastidial genome (cpDNA), demonstrating the essential function of the salvage pathway during chloroplast biogenesis. CPTK1 localized to both plastids and mitochondria, and its absence resulted in an albino phenotype, reduced cpDNA copy number and a severe deficiency in plastidial ribosomes. Mitochondria were not affected, indicating they are less reliant on the salvage pathway. Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) TKs, TK1A and TK1B, apparently resulted from a gene duplication after the divergence of monocots and dicots. Similar but less-severe effects were observed for Arabidopsis tk1a tk1b double mutants in comparison to those in maize cptk1. TK1B was important for cpDNA replication and repair in conditions of replicative stress but had little impact on the mitochondrial phenotype. In the maize cptk1 mutant, the DNA from the small single-copy region of the plastidial genome was reduced to a greater extent than other regions, suggesting preferential abortion of replication in this region. This was accompanied by the accumulation of truncated genomes that resulted, at least in part, from unfaithful microhomology-mediated repair. These and other results suggest that the loss of normal cpDNA replication elicits the mobilization of new replication origins around the rpoB (beta subunit of plastid-encoded RNA polymerase) transcription unit and imply that increased transcription at rpoB is associated with the initiation of cpDNA replication.