At the end of every heartbeat, cardiac myocytes must relax to allow filling of the heart. Impaired relaxation is a significant factor in heart failure, but all pathways regulating the cardiac relaxation apparatus are not known. Haploinsufficiency of the T-box transcription factor Tbx5 in mouse and man causes congenital heart defects (CHDs) as part of Holt-Oram syndrome (HOS). Here, we show that haploinsufficiency of Tbx5 in mouse results in cell-autonomous defects in ventricular relaxation. Tbx5 dosage modulates expression of the sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca(2+)-ATPase isoform 2a encoded by Atp2a2 and Tbx5 haploinsufficiency in ventricular myocytes results in impaired Ca(2+) uptake dynamics and Ca(2+) transient prolongation. We also demonstrate that Tbx5 can activate the Atp2a2 promoter. Furthermore, we find that patients with HOS have significant diastolic filling abnormalities. These results reveal a direct genetic pathway that regulates cardiac diastolic function, implying that patients with structural CHDs may have clinically important underlying anomalies in heart function that merit treatment.