© 2020, The Author(s). Hieracium pilosella and H. aurantiacum are invading alpine regions in New South Wales, Australia. In a glasshouse experiment we investigated germination and growth rates of these two species at temperatures simulating the altitudes where invasions are occurring from autumn to spring. We measured germination rates, growth rates and the development of stolons and ramets using seedlings and plantlets from established plants. Germination was low in H. aurantiacum and unaffected by altitude or seed age. H. pilosella showed site to site variability in germination but had greater germination. No species produced flower spikes. Both species grew rapidly and put at least twice as much biomass into roots compared to shoots. H. aurantiacum could begin to produce stolons after 27 days and seedlings grew a little larger than for H. pilosella. Hieracium aurantiacum put significantly more resources into ramets, allocating between 4–15% of biomass. H. pilosella produced 2.6 stolons month−1, in contrast to 9.8 stolons month−1 for H. aurantiacum. Furthermore, plantlets from established plants had vastly different growth rates. Plantlets of H. aurantiacum produced 2.1 leaves day−1 from late summer to winter where H. pilosella was 3 times slower for the same period but faster following winter. Both species were able to maintain strong growth over cooler months suggesting hawkweeds have the capacity for fast growth in the invaded range under high nutrients and lower competition. H. aurantiacum is likely to be a more effective invader than H. pilosella spreading through stolons and the development of weed mats.