Fox-and-cubs – info, planting, care and tips

Orange flower of Fox-and-cubs (Hieracium aurantiacum)
Orange flower of Fox-and-cubs (Hieracium aurantiacum)

The fox-and-cubs is a wild shrub that enchants in summer with its bright flower heads. This is how it can be successfully planted and cared for.

Profile of fox-and-cubs:

Scientific name: Hieracium aurantiacum

Plant family: daisy family (Asteraceae)

Other names: orange hawk bit, devil’s paintbrush, grim-the-collier

Sowing time: spring

Planting time: spring to autumn

Flowering period: June to August

Harvest time: April and May

Location: sunny

Soil quality: stony to loamy, moderately nutritious

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as spice herb: salads, herb curd cheese, as an addition to soups

Use in: flowerbeds, ground cover, embankments, planters, dry stone walls, overgrowing, borders, flower garden, rock garden, potted garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 (-26 °C / -15 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of fox-and-cubs

Plant order, origin and occurrence of fox-and-cubs

The fox-and-cubs (Hieracium aurantiacum), sometimes also called orange hawk bit, is a plant species from the extensive genus hawkweed (Hieracium) within the family of daisies (Asteraceae). Hieracium aurantiacum is mainly found on mountain meadows and pastures in the Alpine foreland, the Carpathians and in Northern Europe. The fox-and-cubs also grows wild along roadsides and road embankments and along railroad embankments. Meanwhile, the perennial has also become naturalized in some areas of the British Isles and North America.

The generic name “Hieracium” comes from the Greek word “hierax” for “hawk”. According to a legend, it was believed that hawks would coat their eyes with the milky sap of the plant and therefore have good eyesight. Further derivations say that hawks sharpened their beaks on the flowers or that only hawks were able to reach the plants in the alpine altitudes. In the Middle Ages, the fox-and-cubs and the mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella) were actually used as a medicinal plant for eye diseases. In addition, healers recommended Hieracium aurantiacum for intestinal complaints and inflammation of the mouth and throat.

Characteristics of fox-and-cubs


Hieracium aurantiacum is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows upright and between 20 and 50 centimeters (8 to 20 in) high and 10 to 30 centimeters (4 to 12 in) wide. The plant stems, which contain a non-toxic latex, are covered with fine dark glandular hairs. The basal leaf rosettes are formed on runner-like shoots, the so-called stolons. The fox-and-cubs spreads quickly and carpet-like through the above- and underground runners.


The gray to blue-green, edible leaves of the fox-and-cubs are also hairy, lanceolate to narrow-elliptical and finely toothed. They grow up to 20 centimeters (8 in) long and one to 3 centimeters (1.2 in) wide.


From June to August, upright, wiry stems appear with dense, terminal tufts of sometimes more than twelve orange-red to reddish-brown flower heads. These have a diameter of about 2 centimeters (0.8 in). The bright flowers, which form a beautiful contrast to the dark hairy stems and grey-green leaves, are visited with preference by similarly colored butterflies.


Nut-similar indehiscent fruits (achene) with each a hairy little umbrella (pappus) are formed. The columnar fruits are one to two millimeters (0.04 to 0.08 in) long.

Fox-and-cubs (Hieracium aurantiacum)
Fox-and-cubs (Hieracium aurantiacum)

Fox-and-cubs – cultivation and care


As a location for the orange hawk bit, a sunny place in the garden is ideal.


Fox-and-cubs thrives best in permeable, dry and slightly acidic soils.

Planting fox-and-cubs

You can plant the fox-and-cubs from spring to autumn. Keep a distance of about 30 centimeters (12 in) to other plants. Dig out sufficiently large planting holes, press the plants firmly after planting and water well.


Once grown, the fox-and-cubs needs neither special care nor fertilization.


Due to the fact that fox-and-cubs with its offshoots spreads very quickly by itself, a division is usually not necessary. However, you can rejuvenate the stocks a little and contain the spread by digging up the perennial in spring and dividing it with a sharp spade.


In general, propagation by sowing as well as by division is possible. Usually the fox-and-cubs is self-seeding.

Diseases and pests

Hieracium aurantiacum is extremely insensitive to plant diseases and pests.


Fox-and-cubs is hardy down to -26 °C / -15 °F. Young plants should be protected from frosts in the first year of panting. You can place some brushwood over it.

Use in the garden

The rapidly spreading fox-and-cubs with its orange-red flowers is suitable for sparse meadows and not too shady edges of a wood. It is also an ideal ground cover for natural embankments, gravel strips and wall crowns in the garden – it is predestined for rock gardens. You can achieve color accents in combination with other drought-loving plants.

Tip: In plantations with mixed tubs, fox-and-cubs is also an eye-catcher. Planted in a lean substrate with a sufficient drainage layer, the wild shrub’s urge to spread is limited.

Use in the kitchen

Both the fox-and-cubs and the mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella) can be used as wild vegetables. Due to their hairiness, however, especially older leaves are less suitable for raw consumption. The young, somewhat bitter-tasting leaves, on the other hand, can be harvested in April and May. Cut as finely as possible, they are used raw in salads, in herb curd cheese or as an addition to soups. The flower buds are also edible and can also be added to salads. Pickled in vinegar, they are an alternative to capers.

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