Plant height variation in European winter wheat cultivars is mainly controlled by the Rht - D1 and Rht - B1 semi-dwarfing genes, but also by other medium- or small-effect QTL and potentially epistatic QTL enabling fine adjustments of plant height. Plant height is an important goal in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) breeding as it affects crop performance and thus yield and quality. The aim of this study was to investigate the genetic control of plant height in European winter wheat cultivars. To this end, a panel of 410 winter wheat varieties from across Europe was evaluated for plant height in multi-location field trials and genotyped for the candidate loci Rht-B1, Rht-D1, Rht8, Ppd-B1 copy number variation and Ppd-D1 as well as by a genotyping-by-sequencing approach yielding 23,371 markers with known map position. We found that Rht-D1 and Rht-B1 had the largest effects on plant height in this cultivar collection explaining 40.9 and 15.5 % of the genotypic variance, respectively, while Ppd-D1 and Rht8 accounted for 3.0 and 2.0 % of the variance, respectively. A genome-wide scan for marker–trait associations yielded two additional medium-effect QTL located on chromosomes 6A and 5B explaining 11.0 and 5.7 % of the genotypic variance after the effects of the candidate loci were accounted for. In addition, we identified several small-effect QTL as well as epistatic QTL contributing to the genetic architecture of plant height. Taken together, our results show that the two Rht-1 semi-dwarfing genes are the major sources of variation in European winter wheat cultivars and that other small- or medium-effect QTL and potentially epistatic QTL enable fine adjustments in plant height.