Banana, one of the largest rhizomatous herbs in the world, is the fourth most important global food crop. It has a high water requirement, but the whole-plant water use in the field has not been determined satisfactorily. In this study, whole-plant water use in potted and field-grown banana plants (Musa 'Cavendish' cv. Williams) was successfully determined using a xylem sap flow method. This was achieved using Granier sensor probes implanted into the central cylinder of the banana corm. The whole-plant water use in field-grown bananas was 9-10 l plant(-1) d(-1). The values of daily total sap flow in potted plants correlated closely with gravimetric measurements (r(2)=0.92) and with changes in soil water status (r(2)=0.77). In well-watered, mature, field-grown plants, hourly sap flow also closely correlated with changes in solar radiation, vapour pressure deficit and evapotranspiration. The study indicates that sap flow measurement is a sensitive and accurate method for determining whole-plant water use in bananas under potted as well as field conditions.