Q: I planted my Rising Sun redbud in the fall 18 months ago. It seems to not be doing well, but there is growth at the very bottom. It had a little life last year, maybe one or two branches.
A: Your pictures tell me a lot.
Looking at the base of the tree I can tell that it was planted too deep initially. I should be able to see the base of the trunk where it flares out to become roots. What I see is a telephone pole rising from the ground. Your roots simply suffocated in the months since planting.
But here is some good news: this beautiful redbud variety was produced by grafting a small twig onto the roots of a common redbud. Because the new sprouts are coming out with the same leaf color as Rising Son, it tells me that the graft union is below that point.
Here’s what I would do: carefully dig your plant and expose the root system. Replant it so the roots are barely underground but totally covered with soil. Cut off all the dead top growth and let a new tree come out from the sprouts you have now.
Assuming the roots gradually recover, a new Rising Sun will arise.