The bacterial tubulin FtsZ is the central component of the division machinery, coordinating an ensemble of proteins involved in septal cell-wall synthesis to ensure successful constriction. How cells achieve this coordination is unknown. We used a combination of imaging, genetic and biochemical approaches to demonstrate that in Escherichia coli cells FtsZ exhibits dynamic treadmilling predominantly determined by its GTPase activity, and that the treadmilling dynamics directs processive movement of the septal cell-wall synthesis machinery. In FtsZ mutants with severely reduced treadmilling, the spatial distribution of septal synthesis and the molecular composition and ultrastructure of the septal cell wall are substantially altered. Thus, the treadmilling of FtsZ provides a novel and robust mechanism for achieving uniform septal cell-wall synthesis to enable correct new pole morphology.