Virus-induced diseases cause severe damage to cultivated plants, resulting in crop losses. Certain plant–virus interactions allow disease recovery at later stages of infection and have the potential to reveal important molecular targets for achieving disease control. Although recovery is known to involve antiviral RNA silencing1,2, the specific components of the many plant RNA silencing pathways3 required for recovery are not known. We found that Arabidopsis thaliana plants infected with oilseed rape mosaic virus (ORMV) undergo symptom recovery. The recovered leaves contain infectious, replicating virus, but exhibit a loss of viral suppressor of RNA silencing (VSR) protein activity. We demonstrate that recovery depends on the 21–22 nt siRNA-mediated post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) pathway and on components of a transcriptional gene silencing (TGS) pathway that is known to facilitate non-cell-autonomous silencing signalling. Collectively, our observations indicate that recovery reflects the establishment of a tolerant state in infected tissues and occurs following robust delivery of antiviral secondary siRNAs from source to sink tissues, and establishment of a dosage able to block the VSR activity involved in the formation of disease symptoms.