Development of retinal structure and function is controlled by cell type-specific transcription factors and widely expressed co-regulators. The latter includes the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) family of histone methyltransferases that catalyze histone H3 lysine 4 di- and tri-methylation associated with gene activation. One such member, MLL1, is widely expressed in the central nervous system including the retina. However, its role in retinal development is unknown. To address this question, we knocked out Mll1 in mouse retinal progenitors, and discovered that MLL1 plays multiple roles in retinal development by regulating progenitor cell proliferation, cell type composition and neuron-glia balance, maintenance of horizontal neurons, and formation of functional synapses between neuronal layers required for visual signal transmission and processing. Altogether, our results suggest that MLL1 is indispensable for retinal neurogenesis and function development, providing a new paradigm for cell type-specific roles of known histone modifying enzymes during CNS tissue development.