Heart failure is a major cause of mortality worldwide with a steady increase in prevalence. There is currently no available cure beyond orthotopic heart transplantation, which for a number of reasons is an option only for a small fraction of all patients. Considerable hope has therefore been placed on the possibility of treating a failing heart by replacing lost cardiomyocytes, either through transplantation of various types of stem cells or by boosting endogenous regenerative mechanisms in the heart. Here, we review the current status of stem and progenitor cell-based therapies for heart disease. We discuss the pros and cons of different stem and progenitor cell types that can be considered for transplantation and describe recent advances in the understanding of how cardiomyocytes normally differentiate and how these cells can be generated from more immature cells ex vivo. Finally, we consider the possibility of activation of endogenous stem and progenitor cells to treat heart failure.